I didn’t expect I would be selecting banned books for my 2 year old… but this week’s feature from 1936 was labeled pro-fascist and pro-communist in its day, and was banned in several countries at the time. Fast forward 79 years, Preschool Bookworm just sees it as a tale of a bull who, like himself, loves to sit under a tree and smell the flowers. And that’s just what the author intended, “to amuse young children.”
Each Thursday I’ll be featuring a book that my parents *could* have read to me as a child (spoiler alert: I’m no spring chicken), so we will go with a publication date of 1988 or earlier; all books must still be in print as of my writing.
Title/author: The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf
Copyright date: 1936
Plot in a Sentence (or two): Ferdinand the bull is content to sit under a tree and smell the flowers, unlike the other bulls who like to battle one another and dream of fighting in Madrid; one day Ferdinand accidentally finds himself chosen for the bull fights as a result of an unfortunate run-in with a bee. But, Ferdinand smells the beautiful flowers all around the bullring and, true to himself, sits smelling them contentedly, refusing to fight.
Why It’s Timeless: Preschool Bookworm has been choosing this one for his DEAR time all week! I reckon that he sees himself in that bull, that he’s asking himself if it’s okay to march to the beat of a different drummer and finding he likes Ferdinand’s answer! This story speaks to pacifism, sure, but also to anyone who doesn’t quite fit in. I love that Ferdinand’s mother is at first worried about her son who doesn’t play aggressively like the other bulls, but once she sees that he is happy, she is content as well. There’s a timeless message in that for parents, too.
While You’re Reading: On your first read through, you and your bookworms might be worried for poor Ferdinand, dragged off to the bullfights against his will, and seeing the sharp prodding instruments of the bullfighters. Don’t linger there. Allow the story to carry you along and see it through. I promise this one has a happy ending.
Just for Fun: The simple plot makes this a nice choice for little Bookworms to practice retelling the story. Gather a few items and retell the basic storyline together: a tree, a few animals to be Ferdinand and the other bulls (we didn’t have any bulls, but sharks are like the same thing, right? ;), some people who choose him to fight, a cart/dump truck to carry Ferdinand off to Madrid, a bullring, and some flowers.
Fun Fact: Sandra Bullock’s character reads The Story of Ferdinand in The Blind Side– sales spiked right after that!
Ferdinand should be readily available at your local library, or at the affiliate link provided.