My absolute favorite children’s book of all time is the 1936 classic, The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf. My grandmother read it to me as a child and I’ve read it to Huck as least 1000 times in the last few years. History has it that Leaf wrote the story in a single afternoon as a way to help his friend, Robert Lawson, showcase his artistic talent. The book was a hit, and at $1 per copy the 1938 sales topped those of the ever popular Gone with the Wind. The Story of Ferdinand has never been out of print despite the many political waves this little story has caused. 1930’s America received Ferdinand in two very different facets. Some saw the strong but gentle Ferdinand as a fascist, a pacifist, a sit-down striker, and a communist, while others received the children’s tale as story of being true to oneself. Both receptions say more about America at that time than the story itself.
World wide, Ferdinand entered the political arena with mixed reactions. In Spain, Ferdinand was banned as a pacifist book until the death of Francisco Franco. Nazi Germany declared Ferdinand a symbol of democratic propaganda and ordered all copies of the book burned. Ironically, this sweet tale was the only American children’s book sold in Stalinist-era Poland. In 1945, following the defeat of Germany and the end of WWII, 30,000 copies of Ferdinand were published and distributed to the German children to encourage peace.
Despite all of the historical political heat, at its heart, Ferdinand is a book children will love. This adorable tale about a strong young bull named Ferdinand who would rather sit and smell the flowers than participate in the normal young bull activities is one that children (and their parents) will relate to. There are so many deep themes gently layered into this story: self acceptance, parental support and acceptance of a child who clearly steers away from the normal expectations, and being true to yourself despite what everyone else wants from you. If you haven’t read it, I’d recommend borrowing your favorite child and enjoying the sweet story of Ferdinand together, especially as this classic is coming to movie screens in December.
Title: The Story of Ferdinand
Rating: 5 stars
Location best to enjoy: Snuggled in a good reading nook with your favorite child
Best Paired with: A glass of horchata 🙂