Friday, January 11, 2008

Knuffle Bunny

Here's yesterday's post. We had some guests staying in the computer room last night, so I saved it for today. The theme for this double issue is comfort objects. Maya so far hasn't selected a knuffle bunny (I've heard that the 'k' is not silent) of her own, but I'm sure the time is coming. All three of her Longard cousins have particular blankets and toys they must have in order to go to bed.

Knuffle Bunny, by Mo Willems, is about Trixie, who leaves her favorite stuffed animal at the laundromat when she goes there with daddy. The walk home is a battle of wills because she cannot say what she means (it comes out "Blaggle plabble!" and "Wumpy flappy?!"), and daddy just thinks she's being difficult. It isn't until they open the front door and mommy asks, "Where's Knuffle Bunny?" that the hunt begins. Luckily the rabbit is found, and Trixie says her first words (three guesses).

There are so many delightful and familiar touches, such as Trixie going "boneless" to show her displeasure. The art is very attractive (Winning a Caldecott Honor by the way). Willems puts his adorable pencil sketches in the foreground of neighborhood photographs in sepia tone. It's a striking combination.

I did hear some controversy about Knuffle Bunny from a coworker, however. She said her husband didn't appreciate that the daddy is portrayed as clueless, while the mom knows just what the problem is immediately and saves the day.

I guess I hadn't been bothered by this. But I did read an article recently in which one group looked at the disparity in representation of mothers and fathers in picture books. It showed that fathers were not present nearly as much as mothers in the 200 books studied, and when shown they were less often pictured as being adept in child-rearing. Fathers are also less likely to be pictured having physical contact with their kids (ie. hugging, comforting, etc.). This type of controversy is interesting, but I imagine authors and illustrators do this subconsciously. Hopefully they read the article and in their next books deliberately give fathers a good role model.

I remember going to church on a Father's Day once and the minister saying that he noticed Mother's Day sermons are always about appreciating and praising the mother, but Father's Day sermons are typically an admonishment to do a better job. So he didn't do so that day. Good for him.

Rob, who was my mentor when I first worked in a children's library, suggested Maya and I look at Mo Willems, who is getting pretty famous with Knuffle Bunny and to an even greater extent Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. Knuffle Bunny is my favorite, but I also want to mention his great treatise in deconstructionism, Edwina the Dinosaur who didn't Know she was Extinct.

I can't give you a link for the above article, but here is the citation if you'd like to look it up:

Anderson, David A., and Mykol Hamilton. "Gender role stereotyping of parents in children's picture books: the invisible father." Sex Roles: A Journal of Research 52.3-4 (Feb 2005): 145(7).

No comments: