The Story of Ferdinand

written by Munro Leaf
illustrated by Robert Lawson


Munro Leaf's The Story of Ferdinand
illustrated by Robert Lawson

Book review by Tamara Splingaerd

Ages 4-8


Pacifist bull bucks the bullfighting tradition

Ferdinand the young bull is different from the other bulls. The other little bulls like to run and butt their heads together while Ferdinand prefers to sit in the shade of a cork tree smelling the flowers.

Ferdinand’s mother is concerned but then realizes he’s not lonely, he just prefers to sit quietly by himself.

Over the years, Ferdinand grows to be a big strong bull. One day five men in funny hats come to pick the biggest, roughest bulls to fight in the bull fights in Madrid. While the other bulls put on a rowdy show in hopes of being picked, Ferdinand heads for the cork tree. Unfortunately he sits upon a bumble bee and poor Ferdinand leaps to his feet in surprise, wildly snorting, puffing and pawing the ground.

The men are overjoyed at the wild display and haul fierce Ferdinand off to the stadium to be poked and speared by the Matador and his cohorts. But lo and behold, many of the thousands of spectators are women with flowers in their hair and Ferdinand sits in the middle of the ring peacefully and refuses to budge, simply smelling the lovely flowers.

The Matador is so mad that he cries.

They have no choice but to take Ferdinand home, where he again sits happily in the shade of his cork tree.


Book review - The Story of Ferdinand

Don’t worry about getting too analytical or political one direction or another when reading this classic to your preschoolers. They’ll understand the story and enjoy the illustrations better than their judgmental Mommies and Daddies. Remember that everyone feels like Ferdinand at one time or another, children much more so. That’s the fun part about reading children’s books with archetypal characters - everyone can relate.

Perhaps the hardest thing for your little ones to understand is that this book was originally copyrighted in 1938. Maybe even a bit difficult for Mom and Dad too…

Ferdinand in the flowers

The only lesson I take from The Story of Ferdinand is that if you’re an understanding parent, just like Ferdinand’s mother, you’ll have a happy child. And of course we all have to stop to smell the roses every now and then, just like Ferdinand.

More classic children's lit.

More picture books pertaining to self-esteem.

Read more of Tamara's reviews.

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