The Story of Ferdinand

  • Title: The Story of Ferdinand
  • Author: Munro Leaf
  • Illustrator: Robert Lawson
  • Publisher: Viking Press. New edition published in 2011 by Viking, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group
  • Publication year: 1936
  • Brief Summary: From Penguin Random House-“All the other bulls run, jump, and butt their heads together in fights. Ferdinand, on the other hand, would rather sit and smell the flowers. So what will happen when Ferdinand is picked for the bullfights in Madrid?”
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library – As with so many of these “classic” picture books, the older publication date of 1936 would probably eliminate this in a school library. However, I could see this still be being in a public library, as I did see Millions of Cats still in circulation in the children’s section at one of my local libraries. If this book were still being used in a school library, I think one of the most interesting facets is that this book was banned and burned in Nazi Germany because of it’s “subversive” message of nonviolence and pacifism. Indeed, M That alone could tie this book into a historical discussion of Nazism, WWII and the many facets of that terrible time in history. Or on the other side, this book could be looked at in English classes for the difference of author’s intentions to audiences interpretations. Take this The New Yorker article on how Munro thought he had simply wrote a book that “I thought was for children, but now I don’t know.” For these reasons, this book could be used for older readers.
  • Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it – I was initially intrigued to read this when I had saw it on some other picture book sites and under “classic” picture books. I do think the humor in this book is the irony that a big, strong bull is uninterested in fighting like his friends, and instead only wants to stop and smell the flowers. Many of Lawson’s illustrations bring into existence the humor inherent in the book and ultimately bring more to Leaf’s story. My favorite illustration is of Ferdinand, hesitantly peeking around the corner of the entrance to the arena. However, like many books written before the 20th or 21st century, there is the problem that two white men wrote a book with elements of a culture that neither was privy to.

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