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4.8 out of 5 stars
The Story of Ferdinand
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295 of 300 people found the following review helpful
on September 26, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book is more than sixty years old. I remember hearing it as a small child in the early sixties, and even then it sounded strangely old-fashioned to me, as if it came from some sweet, gentle world that had not existed for a long time. But as a child I passionately loved that world, and this book that evoked its gentleness, and years later, when I found out I was pregnant, the first thing I bought for my son was not a blanket or a crib or a stuffed animal, but a copy of Ferdinand. It was the thing I loved most from my own childhood. Seventeen years later, I still think my priorities were right. And that seventeen year old has a six year old sister, so the book is still in use.
Ferdinand has been around so long, I assume everybody knows the story, but in case you don't, here goes: Ferdinand is a gentle little bull in Spain. The other little bulls love to fight and dream of being chosen for the bullfights in Madrid. But by mistake, Ferdinand is sent to fight. The only problem is, he will not fight.. They lead him into the bullring, but he just sits there, smelling the flowers in the women's hair, and in the end there is nothing the matadors can do but take him home.
I suppose people have been reading this book to children for more than sixty years in part because of its pacifist message. In essence, Ferdinand is the one who would not come when they gave a war. But for me that is just a small part of its appeal. Robert Lawson's absolutely perfect illustrations show a world that is often mean and ugly (the stupid expressions on the faces of the men who come to choose the bulls are classics), or else petty and foolish (check out the fussy clothes and snooty expressions of the matadors), but Ferdinand, always true to himself, is oblivious to this world, and just goes on living his own life in his own way. In the end that quality is a force that nothing can alter.
Reading Ferdinand always leaves me believing that goodness is a powerful, unshakeable force. That is a message I find very comforting lately.
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74 of 75 people found the following review helpful
on November 12, 2002
Format: Hardcover
"Ferdinand" is one of the best-loved children's books of all time, and with good reason. This timeless tale of a little bull in Spain who doesn't mind being different from the rest of the herd strikes an instant chord in youngsters and oldsters alike. Ferdinand is a gentle creature who would rather sit around and smell the flowers than butt his way through life; but when he planks himself down one day on a bumblebee, he gets a jolt that propels him into the bullring in Madrid. The story is funny and endearing, and the illustrations are hilarious. Generations of preschoolers have loved this book, and it looks good for generations to come.
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48 of 50 people found the following review helpful
on September 6, 2000
Format: Hardcover
My mother-in-law gave me her copy of this book (printed in 1938) when my oldest child was 4 or 5 years old and we just adored this story! In fact, she (my daughter) loved it so much she memorized it within months. I chose this book to read to her 2nd grade class and they, too, felt the magic of how the fierce bull loved to just sit and "smell the flowers"! I just sat down tonight to read it for the first time to my youngest child (5 years old) and he already knew how the story went. I asked him how he knew it and if his sister already read it to him, because I had not yet done so. He told me that nobody read it to him, that his sister (now 11 years old) already told him about it. He went on to explain every page to me before I even read it! Maybe it's because it's such a different subject for a children's book ( a bull, a tree, a bee and oh, those flowers!) or it could be because we don't have a great deal of access to bull fighting here in America...none the less, it's a story that stays with you, if only because of it's simplicity. Kind of refreshing.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
I love Robert Lawson and I love Munroe Leaf, but ladies and gentlemen these two men are definitely less great unless paired together. In undoubtedly my favorite children's book from the 1930s (so sorry, "They Were Strong and Brave"), these two titans of the picture book world created the most adorable story to have ever involved cork trees, bulls, and sweet smelling flowers.
Ferdinand is none too different from "The Reluctant Dragon". He may look fierce and strong, but underneath that hard exterior lies a bull that is perfectly content to just sit beneath his favorite cork tree and smell the flowers all day. Ferdinand was gentle even when young, and he has no desire to go needlessly ramming his head with the other bulls in the field. When some wonderfully illustrated men arrive to find a bull worthy of their bull-fighting arena, Ferdinand is accidentally selected as their choice. Once in the arena, however, Ferdinand proceeds to humiliate the matador and his cronies through simple peace-loving flower-smelling. In the end, Ferdinand is returned to his cork tree and the world is as it was.
There's a definite pacifist feel behind the old Ferdinand tale. In what other story will you have a creature not fight back despite all provocations, only to win in the end? Moreover, a male character that prefers pretty sights and smells to violence and uber-masculinity. Lawson's pen and ink drawings expertly compliment Leaf's tale. Through them we see the high balconies of Spanish towns, and the serene fields where little bulls may play. I was especially amused by the cork tree, from which actual wine corks hang. I suspect many a child has subsequently believed for years that corks really do grow on the vine as Lawson displayed them. Lawson isn't above other humorous tweaking beyond that. On the front and end papers of the book is an image of children gawking at a ferocious picture of "angry" Ferdinand. The poster goes on to advertise treats at the bull fight including "hot dogos" and "chocolato". Apparently any word with an appropriate "o" tacked on the end is instantly Spanish.
"Ferdinand" is the sweetest of the Leaf/Lawson tales. However you feel about the nature of violence (and about how it is almost required of the males of society) this is the quintessential story about being yourself. The angry over-masculine bulls may fight and brawl but peaceful Ferdinand is the one to outwit the men in the end.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I recently rediscovered this favorite book from my childhood (which was 40+ years ago now), and fell in love all over again. Now my 4 year old daughter and I both get to experience the exquisite pleasure of Ferdinand on a regular (i.e. nightly) basis. The gorgeous illustrations and simple, powerful story of the biggest bull on the farm who would rather "sit just quietly and smell the flowers", is as moving today as it was when it was written more than 50 years ago. And I cannot think of a more important lesson to teach our children today: that it is o.k. to be yourself, even when everyone else thinks you should be something else. This is a sweet, lovely story for children and adults alike, and is one of the few books I look forward to reading over and over again. Luckily, my daughter agrees.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on May 8, 2003
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
This book has been one of my favorites, if not my favorite for years. I did not discover it until after I saw Disney's short of the story about 20 years ago. Disney's short was made in the 50s or 60s, I think. Ferdinand is the most endearing character and a great messege to tell children that they don't have to follow the crowd to be happy and we can break the mold and be peaceful and non-violent. This is only part of the greatness of this book...the illustration are the absolutely most wonderful illustrations. Robert Lawson is a genius of catching the most adorable expressions and humourus faces. My daughter (3yrs) LOVES this book too. WE HIGHLY RECCOMMEND IT!
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on May 2, 2014
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I would give a thousand stars to this story, it is one of my favorites. But this printing is really lousy, and does not match the printing seen in the "Look Inside" preview. The quality is poor, the illustrations are all cropped, and the page layout is all screwed up. I have a much better copy that I bought not so long ago, so I know they're out there. Having trouble finding it online, though...this is one case where shopping in person works out much better.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
Four words best discribe this wonderful book and they are peace, contentment, pacifist, and priorities. And in a day and age of school shootings I wonder what would happen if we made sure this book was read by all children and then discussed.
It is a wonderful book for teaching that some creatures including some people are peaceful and do not need much less seek fights. That when we are "stung" we may get mad but that we do not need to take it to the next step where we hurt, harm or kill. That we all have tempers but that we also can learn to make wise choices and develop sound priorities.
The book is interesting because it does teach something about the culture or history of bull fighting, as well as the fact that just because something has always been done doesn't mean it should or need continue.
I would caution that this is a book that a parent/caregiver needs to not just read but also discuss. Children may have some serious questions about bull fighting and the whole kill and die aspect. Just because a book has a good ending etc doesn't mean that questions in the middle of the book are not still there, and need to be answered.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon January 15, 2004
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Originally published in 1936, this simple story of the pacifist bull still rings true for children and adults, as Ferdinand refuses to fight even when he is chosen to face the matador in Madrid. Ferdinand would rather sit under a tree and smell the flowers, and his mom thinks that's just fine. This is a comforting story for kids who feel they don't fit in. The message is simple and direct, and makes for great discussions after reading. The original illustrations are quite charming as well.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on September 5, 2002
Format: Paperback
Written in 1936 this beautiful story of Ferdinand, a gentle calf that grows into a very large but peace-loving bull has enchanted millions of people and continues to do so to this day.
Robert Lawson of Rabbit Hill fame has done a great job with the black and white drawings of Ferdinand and his surroundings, filled with humorous details of the Spanish bull-fighting world.
Monro Leaf's tale shows what happens when a bumble bee's sting brings Ferdinand, unexpectedly to the attention of the bull ring scouts.
This book is always one of the first ones I buy for new babies among our family and friends. It's a true classic. Enjoy this sweet message about being yourself and make Ferdinand a friend for life.
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