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"The Story of Ferdinand" or The Book I Almost Banned Myself

September 27, 2012

Banned Book Week is Sept. 30-Oct. 6, and if you haven't chosen a banned book to read, I'd like to suggest The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf and illustrated by Robert Lawson.

It is the classic children's picture book that Ghandi loved and Francisco Franco hated for its pacifist message. In a fit of sleep deprivation, I once questioned the subversive nature of this book and its place on my bookshelf for reasons I will soon explain.

If you don't know The Story of Ferdinand, it goes like this. Ferdinand is a little bull living with his mother in a beautiful pasture in the Spanish countryside. While all the other little bulls practice butting heads and jumping around in hopes of one day competing in Madrid's bullfighting rings, Ferdinand sits under a cork tree smelling the flowers. Ferdinand's mother, "because she is an understanding mother," just lets him sit and be happy.

Ferdinand grows up to be the biggest, strongest bull in the pasture, but he still prefers sitting under the cork tree to butting and goring the other bulls. When scouts come to find young bulls for the bullfights, Ferdinand doesn't show off like the others. That is until he is stung on the rear by a bumblebee. Then, he goes berserk, leading the scouts to believe he is ferocious. Next thing Ferdinand knows, he’s in a truck headed to certain doom. The rest is pure comedy.

I read this book to my son when he was about 3 years old. He loved it so much, I read it twice. Then came the questions about bulls and bullfighting, matadors and picadors, and bumble bees and bulls’ rear ends. I answered them the best I could while washing dishes and folding laundry. Needless to say, I wasn’t paying all that much attention to where the conversation was leading.

Bedtime rolled around, and when I announced it was time for little boys to be in bed, my son replied, "No, I think I’ll just stay here and smell the flowers." Then he dropped on all fours and roamed the living room with his nose in the air, sniffing. He wasn't a boy, he was a bull.

That got a chuckle out of me, and then I declared bedtime once again. More roaming and sniffing ensued. This went back and forth for a little too long. Finally, exhausted from the day, I scooped him up and off we went to bed.

The next night, I was treated to more roaming and sniffing at bedtime. My son was treated to more growling and scooping. "I swear that book’s got to go," I muttered under my breath as I carried a squirming, bellowing preschooler off to bed.

That night I must have been visited by Ferdinand’s mother in my sleep, because by the next morning, my sense of humor was restored. I could laugh about my own little Ferdinand.

I guess she just reminded me that whether you're a cow or a human being, the most important thing is to be an understanding mother.

Sara PD
Kearney Branch

Tags: book review, banned books

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