Tuesday, July 13, 2010
The Story of Ferdinand
Written by: Munro leaf
Illustrated by: Robert Lawson
Recommended Ages: 3-8
In honor of Spain winning the World Cup, I was inspired to revisit the children's classic The Story of Ferdinand. As I started to read it, I realized that I still knew it by heart, even though it had been at least ten years since I last cracked its cover. For The Story of Ferdinand, along with Where the Wild Things Are, was one of the most beloved and widely read picture books in our house.
For those who don't know the story, Ferdinand was a little bull that "liked to sit just quietly and smell the flowers." He was different than all of the other bulls who jumped and butted their heads together. Everything was fine in Ferdinand's life, until one day he sat on a bumble bee, which made him jump up with a snort and go a little crazy. Unfortunately for Ferdinand, some men from the city saw him at that exact moment and thought he would be the best bull to go to the big bullfights in Madrid. So they took him to the city with high hopes of having quite a show. But, no matter how hard the matadors tried, Ferdinand wouldn't fight. Instead he sat down in the middle of the bullring and smelled all of the flowers in the ladies' hats.
So what is it about the "little bull who would rather just sit and smell the flowers than fight," that finds its way into our hearts forever? I think it's because kids see from the beginning that Ferdinand is true to himself, even when everyone around him behaves differently. They see how much more appealing Ferdinand is being himself, rather than just one of the other bulls. It's a subtle lesson in individuality. Furthermore (and this is important), Ferdinand has one of the happiest, most satisfying endings in children's literature.
Of course, you can't talk about The Story of Ferdinand without talking about the whimsical (and often very humorous) black and white drawings by Robert Lawson. The facial expressions of the people, the cork tree, the matador dandies and the lovely ladies with flowers in their hair all make it so that multiple readings are enjoyable. There is always a fun new detail to point out, and I can honestly say that this is one book I never minded reading over and over again.
BookNosher Tidbit: The Story of Ferdinand was published just before the start of the Spanish Civil War (1934), and was seen by many supporters of Francisco Franco as a pacifist book. It became a target of the right wing and was banned in many countries. It was also one of the few non-Communist books promoted in Soviet-occupied Poland.