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The Story of Ferdinand (Picture Puffins) Paperback – June 30, 1977
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What else can be said about the fabulous Ferdinand? Published more than 50 years ago (and one of the bestselling children's books of all time), this simple story of peace and contentment has withstood the test of many generations. Ferdinand is a little bull who much prefers sitting quietly under a cork tree-- just smelling the flowers--to jumping around, snorting, and butting heads with other bulls. This cow is no coward--he simply has his pacifist priorities clear. As Ferdinand grows big and strong, his temperament remains mellow, until the day he meets with the wrong end of a bee. In a show of bovine irony, the one day Ferdinand is most definitely not sitting quietly under the cork tree (due to a frightful sting), is the selfsame day that five men come to choose the "biggest, fastest, roughest bull" for the bullfights in Madrid.
Ferdinand's day in the arena gives readers not only an education in the historical tradition of bullfighting, but also a lesson in nonviolent tranquility. Robert Lawson's black-and-white drawings are evocative and detailed, with especially sweet renditions of Ferdinand, the serene bull hero. The Story of Ferdinand closes with one of the happiest endings in the history of happy endings--readers of all ages will drift off to a peaceful sleep, dreaming of sweet-smelling flowers and contented cows.
From the Back Cover
In Spain lives a big and strong bull whose name is Ferdinand. Unlike the other bulls, Ferdinand does not like to fight. He would rather sit in the shade of his favorite cork tree and smell the flowers. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The result has the same relationship with the original as an orange peel has to an orange -- the color and shape remain, but all the juice has been squeezed out.
If you care at all about quality, find your kid a copy of the Viking edition instead. Borrow it from a library if you must. But stay far away from this edition unless-and-until the publisher fires the imbecile who decided to release this ersatz "classic" and brings back the original as it was meant to be read and enjoyed.
From what I've read, bullfighting is steeped in Hispanic identity in many parts of the world, considered more of a cultural event - a highly ritualized art form rather than a bloodsport. I must say that for me personally, though it's important to respect each culture's heritage, I would never have purchased a book about bullfighting - especially for our grandsons! But that is NOT what this book is about... as I read it, it is much more about resisting conforming to what's seen as the being the "norm" if it goes against who you are, regardless of what others say or do to provoke you or attempt to force you into submission. I'd read enough about the book to know that the majority of it centered around the peaceful nature of Ferdinand (only three pages reference what I consider the gruesome progression of torture a bull experiences in the ring - the Banderilleros with long sharp pins, the Picadores with long spears, and the Matador with his sword), with that innate peacefulness being what spares him.
This is certainly not a book most children these days will be used to, with its completely black and white illustrations, but - for the right age - a child who's ready to focus more on a story line versus needing lots of bright colors to hold his/her attention, the illustrations do a beautiful job of reflecting the gentleness of Ferdinand, who much prefers to "sit just quietly and smell the flowers" while the other bulls run and jump around, butting heads, and his wise mother who - though occasionally worried about him and what he may face by not conforming to the norm - understood that he was happy. When some men come to pick "the biggest, fastest, roughest bull" to fight in Madrid, Ferdinand accidentally sits on a bee, which of course stings him, and his resulting puffing, snorting, butting and pawing catches the eye of the men, who bring him to Madrid. But after entering the ring, Ferdinand simply runs to the middle of the ring and sits down, quite content to just enjoy the smell of the flowers in all of the female attendees' hair - most certainly not the type of bull they wanted for a fight, so they take Ferdinand back home... where "He is very happy."
My take from the book is that it's true message is the power of peace.