By Mo Willems, Hyperion
A sequel to KnuffleBunny, in this episode Trixie is now older and can now talk. She is particularly excited about taking her beloved KnuffleBunny to class and showing it off to her friends. All such plans are foiled when Trixie sees Sonja in the morning— holding an identical bunny in her arms. Their teacher, Ms. Greengrove, takes away the bunnies to prevent an argument between Trixie and Sonya, and returns them at the end of the day. Unfortunately, during this process, the bunnies get mixed up and Trixie and Sonja go home unaware. What will happen when Trixie and Sonja realize they have each other’s bunnies? What if only one of them realizes this? Will Trixie be reunited with her beloved Knufflebunny, or will she end up losing it to Sonja this time?
Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion
By Sadia Khatri
KnuffleBunny Too is a light-hearted, mock-tragedy about a stuffed toy mix-up but at the heart of the story’s central dilemma—where Trixie realizes that the bunny in her hand isn’t the bunny she left home with in the morning—lie crucial philosophical questions about property, ownership and knowledge.
In our story, Trixie and Sonja’s bunnies share the same physical form of a bunny, but something is apparently different about them, which makes Trixie realize that the bunny she has is “not hers.” Why is it important that the bunny be hers, especially if the two bunnies look exactly the same? How does she know? Children, who have undoubtedly owned some toy in their lives, will be able to relate with Trixie. However the rules governing personal spaces have not fully been incorporated into their world yet, the same way they have with adults'. They still have to be told what they can and can’t touch and use, and are going through processes that result in them owning things like presents and everyday items. Therefore they will be able to think about why property matters, and how it comes about. Does it have to be earned? Does there have to be agreement?
We can begin by asking them if they think it was important for Trixie to get her bunny back. If they yes, we can question the nature of ownership and how it comes about. Philosophers have suggested several possibilities and restrictions; we know something belongs to someone because they use it until it is exhausted; we know someone owns something because they earned it; ownership has to be given by someone else (such as gifts); ownership is the result of social contracts. How do children understand this? What is the point where they can say they 'own' something? Can this change with time? If ownership is earned, then what about things like gifts and money we find lying on the street? All these possibilities also include the question of consent, which will be an exercise in reflecting upon social relationships for the children. Ownership is not agreed upon simply by the person who claims that ownership. Everyone else has to be on the same page so that the objects are treated in a certain way. What if everybody including Sonja told Trixie that bunny was hers? rightWho? determines consent? Is it even important?
Furthermore, why is it even important to own things? Do they help us do anything better, are they there to make life convenient, or are they part of who we are? And is it only physical things like bunnies, houses and food to be owned? What about the sky, or thoughts or ideas?
Philosophically speaking, the question of which bunny belongs to who is a also question of self- and social- definition. Associations and meaning-making which are the results of experience determine how we are connected to things. An important thread of this discussion, therefore, necessitates exploration into the nature of knowledge: How did Trixie know the bunny in her hand wasn’t hers? Were there tea stains or loose threads coming out of Trixie’s bunny that made it different from Sonja’s? What if both the bunnies were brand new? Does meaning-making differ with each bunny? John Locke said that experience is a result of sensory perception; what we experience in the world informs what we know about it. Perhaps Trixie’s ‘knowledge’ that a certain bunny was hers came from her experience of playing with it, holding it and getting comfortable with the feel of it. If so, how did Trixie's experience with her bunny also affect her ideas of possessing it? Children may think about their own personal connections with objects in their life here, and consider how those objects might mean something different without those meanings. Experience affects what we know about something, including whether or not we own it.
Therefore, Knufflebunny Too makes for an interesting discussion in epistemology. In a world where possessions are highly valued and often become the value of a person, Trixie's bunny can prove to be an important metaphor in understanding these relationships between property, ownership and knowledge.
Questions for Philosophical Discussion
Consent and ownership
Knowledge and Experience