By Karen MacPherson Scripps Howard News Service
Acclaimed picture-book creator Mo Willems says 2010 is “my sentimental year.”
It’s a year when two of his picture books — “Knuffle Bunny Free” ($17.99) and “City Dog, Country Frog” ($17.99) — deal with the idea of letting go, and understanding that endings are both hard and necessary.
“Knuffle Bunny Free,” which Willems both wrote and illustrated, is the third and final book about a girl named Trixie and her beloved stuffed animal.
The trilogy began in 2004 with “Knuffle Bunny” and continued with “Knuffle Bunny Too” in 2007.
In “Knuffle Bunny Free,” Trixie travels to Holland with her parents. Things take a challenging turn, when Trixie realizes that she has left Knuffle Bunny on the plane, which is now headed for China.
At first, it’s hard for Trixie to have fun in Holland without Knuffle Bunny. After dreaming one night of Knuffle Bunny spreading happiness all over the world, however, Trixie wakes up feeling better.
Then Trixie discovers Knuffle Bunny hidden in the pocket of an airline seat on the way home. She decides she’s old enough to be “Knuffle Bunny Free” by giving him to a crying baby sitting behind her.
The heart of “City Dog, Country Frog” echoes the letting-go process as Willems describes how the joyful friendship between the animals is interrupted by the frog’s natural life cycle.
The dog is heartbroken, but then spring comes and brings with it the promise of a new, albeit different friend.