Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Story of Ferdinand

Several weeks ago, my brother and sister-in-law gave my family a copy of The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf and illustrated by Robert Lawson. When my brother handed it to me, I recognized its distinctive red cover with a bull and flowers on it from bookstore and library trips, but I had never read it. My brother told me it's a nice story about a bull and pacifism. He's right, it is, but if he had not said that, after reading it, I would have first described it as a book about being true to who you are, in Ferdinand's case, a pacifist bull. I guess that is because accepting my children as they are is sometimes a struggle. I try to bite my tongue to avoid sentences that begin, "Why don't you.." and end with suggestions about better ways to spend their time and energy. Ferdinand's mother is a good role model for me. You see Ferdinand grows up in the countryside of Spain and he does not want to butt heads with the other bulls. He does not want to be picked for the bullfights in Madrid as the other bulls do. Ferdinand just wants to sit under his favorite cork tree smelling the flowers. His mother worried that he would be lonesome and asked why he didn't run and play with the other bulls. Ferdinand explains that he prefers sitting quietly smelling the flowers. Here is the sentence that spoke to my heart, "His mother saw that he was not lonesome, and because she was an understanding mother, even though she was a cow, she let him just sit there and be happy." Of course this is not the end of Ferdinand's story. He mistakenly ends up in a bullfight in Madrid, but he will not be provoked by the Banderilleros with their long, sharp pins, by the Picadores with their long spears, or even by the Matador. No, Ferdinand sits in the middle of the ring sniffing the flowers in the hair of the ladies in the audience. The Matador was "so mad he cried because he could not show off with his cape and sword." That spoke to our funny bones. What a great story with fantastic illustrations! My kids really enjoyed it, and immediately asked me to reread it. After the second reading, I asked what they liked about the book. Ethan said everything, Aaron said, "That the bull was smart and didn't fight when they wanted him to," and Hayden said she liked that,"It shows you that there are all kinds of people. And bulls." This is definitely a book I will give as a gift in the future, and can imagine being used in classrooms for many purposes in addition to plain old enjoyment.

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