If you are looking for a fresh and funny story with appealing illustrations and simple language, 'Knuffle Bunny', by award-winning author Mo Willems, is one of those books. It tells the story of the day toddler Trixie visits the laundrette with her daddy but leaves Knuffle Bunny (a soft toy) behind. In the end, Trixie has no option but to go ‘boneless’! Don’t worry – there is a happy ending!
There are many great aspects to this book:
Cartoon images layered over sepia photographs of modern-day Brooklyn create a simple, but not simplified world. Misunderstandings between pre-verbal Trixie and her dad provide good-natured comedy. The text can be enjoyed aurally or read independently by a confident key stage 1 reader. Although it is an American book, the spellings and most of the language have been anglicised in UK editions.
Knuffle Bunny is unusual in its depiction of pre-verbal speech. On realising that Knuffle Bunny (her soft toy) is missing, Trixie exclaims, 'ggle flaggle klabble!' which her daddy amusingly misunderstands. Much hilarity can be created by a class reading Trixie’s babble. It also provides opportunities for phonetic reading of nonsense words and extrapolating what Trixie might actually be saying, a motivating stimulation for sentence building.
Because of the simple story and language, Knuffle Bunny is particularly good as a writing model. Children can retell the story, make small changes in setting or character or write new adventures.
You may be wondering about the titular character. ‘Knuffle’ comes from a Dutch word meaning ‘snuggle’, pronounced with a hard K: however, Willems has given readers permission to pronounce it however we like!
This is a great text for exploring stories with familiar settings, family stories and lost toy stories; it would provide a fantastic alternative or complementary text to Shirley Hughes’ Dogger.
For teaching plans and resources using this book see Hamilton's Year 1 English block, ‘Family Stories’. Units 3 and 4 focus on SPAG (sentences and telling stories) and compositions (writing a lost toy story) inspired by Knuffle Bunny