Monday, May 12, 2008

The Story of Ferdinand

by Munro Leaf

There aren’t a lot of story books I remember from my childhood. Neither because my dear mother didn’t read to me, nor because she didn’t drive me to the library faithfully every two weeks so this bookgirl could check out her weight in books, but simply because I have such a faulty memory.

There were plenty of books which came back to me over the years as I read to my own daughters and other children. The Story of Ferdinand is one of the few stories I never forgot; I think that's because of what the story is about.

When I was teaching religious education a few years back and searching for books to teach morality to children I ran across it again. The distributor advertized the book as teaching mildness, peacefulness and how to get along well with others. ‘Ah! Just the book I’m looking for’, I thought, ‘it will be perfect for my class lesson on charity and love.’

Then I reread Ferdinand at the Library—after maybe forty years? I remembered why I liked it so much and I knew why it was one of the few books from my childhood I’d remembered. Ferdinand is a bull—a bull who doesn’t like to fight.

On the surface, Ferdinand is about peacefulness. But more importantly, I think it’s about different-ness. As I read the story, it seemed more to tell a story about someone who dared to be different, regardless of social norms.

So long as Ferdinand was safe at home, his eccentricities were protected by his compassionate mama, but when an act of nature led him away from his home environment, Ferdinand found himself in a predicament.

It’s an incredibly sweet story with a simplistic ending. And yet, its winsome appeal still charms me today. It can be read to a child as young as 2, but will be treasured by this booklady (God willing) for years to come .


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