Thursday, June 27, 2019

Beloved Children’s Book Character Created by Mo Willems is Park Slope’s Most Famous Fictional Resident

Brooklyn, NY–Brooklyn Public Library debuted a new permanent bronze statue of Knuffle Bunny today in the garden of Park Slope Library. Designed by award-winning author and illustrator Mo Willems, the statue pays tribute to the much-loved character introduced by Willems in his picture book Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale, winner of the American Library Association Caldecott Honor. The book is set and photographed in Park Slope, following toddler Trixie as she travels the neighborhood with her favorite stuffed animal, Knuffle Bunny.

“The Knuffle Bunny books were created as an ode to the small stories that are the building blocks of a family’s grand narrative and to the idea of Brooklyn,” said Mo Willems. “That these small stories have now become a physical part of Brooklyn is an honor that cannot be expressed in words, with the possible exception of “Aggle”, “Flaggle”, and “Klabble”.”

Park Slope Library is a just a few blocks away from the laundromat in Willems’ story where Trixie’s bunny is famously left behind. Council Member Brad Lander represents the area and helped bring participatory budgeting, the process which funded Park Slope Library’s garden, to New York City.

 

"I still remember our daughter Rosa going 'boneless' along with the character Trixie when she threw her tantrum at the loss of Knuffle Bunny. Now Trixie, Rosa, and every other Brooklyn kid will know where to find Knuffle Bunny, averting tantrums and sparking a love of reading for generations to come. The Park Slope Library reading garden was already one of the loveliest places in Brooklyn, envisioned by the library's friends group, chosen democratically through participatory budgeting, and filled up with imagination and joy by so many kids and families. Now, it's got the cutest fictional bunny statue to boot,” said Council Member Brad Lander. “Huge thanks to the Linda Johnson and the Brooklyn Public Library, to author Mo Willems, to sculptor Chad Rimer, to Christopher Franceschelli and the Friends groups, and to everyone who helps bring Knuffle Bunny, the reading garden, the library, and our imaginations to life."

Knuffle Bunny and its companion titles (Knuffle Bunny Too!: A Case of Mistaken Identity and Knuffle Bunny Free: An Unexpected Diversion) have earned universal praise for Mo Willems’ innovative illustrative technique: superimposing bright and colorful drawings of his characters onto black-and-white photographs of the Park Slope neighborhood.

“The story of Trixie and her favorite stuffed animal have delighted children and their parents for years, both here in Park Slope where the book takes place, and around the world,” said Brooklyn Public Library President and CEO Linda E. Johnson. “We are thrilled to be able to provide a permanent home to this wonderful sculptural depiction of Mo Willems’ Knuffle Bunny in the Park Slope garden.”

Park Slope-based sculptor Chad Rimer turned Mo Willems’ sketches into the 18-inch bronze statue, which rests on one of the stone benches in the Library’s garden.

“It was very meaningful to have the opportunity to sculpt Mo Willems' Knuffle Bunny for my local public library, and an honor to contribute artwork to my community,” said Chad Rimer. “It was also immensely fun bringing the Knuffle Bunny off the page and into bronze, where little and big book lovers alike can sit with it, read to it, touch it, and let their imaginations take flight.”

The statue and garden were both proposed by the Friends of Park Slope Library; the garden opened in 2017 and hosts over 100 programs a year with thousands of attendees.

“Knuffle Bunny has been a beloved storybook character in the hearts of an entire generation of Park Slope kids. So it’s wonderful that Knuffle Bunny will now also have a very real and solid presence in the Library’s StoryGarden welcoming all children in the community,” said Christopher Franceschelli, co-president of the Friends of Park Slope Library and president and publisher of Park Slope children’s book publisher, Handprint Books, an imprint of Chronicle Books.

The statue was funded by the family of Jane Bethge Lynch. Calvert Wright Architecture | Spatial Discipline provided pro bono architectural services and assisted with the Landmarks Preservation Commission application process. 

Mo Willems is a number one New York Times best-selling author and illustrator; three of his books have been awarded a Caldecott Honor: Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary TaleKnuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity; and Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!.

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! was an inaugural inductee into the Indies Choice Picture Book Hall of Fame. Mo’s celebrated Elephant & Piggie early reader series has been awarded two Theodor Seuss Geisel Medals (for There Is a Bird on Your Head! and Are You Ready to Play Outside?) and five Geisel Honors (for We Are in a Book!I Broke My Trunk!Let’s Go for a Drive!A Big Guy Took My Ball!, and Waiting Is Not Easy!). In 2019, the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC named Mo the first-ever Education Artist-in-Residence. Willems began his career as a writer and animator on Sesame Street, where he garnered six Emmy Awards.

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About Brooklyn Public Library 
Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) is an independent library system for the 2.5 million residents of Brooklyn. It is the fifth largest library system in the United States with 60 neighborhood libraries located throughout the borough. BPL offers free programs and services for all ages and stages of life, including a large selection of books in more than 30 languages, author talks, literacy programs, and public computers. BPL’s eResources, such as eBooks and eVideos, catalog information, and free homework help, are available to customers of all ages 24 hours a day at our website: https://www.bklynlibrary.org 

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