Thursday, August 7, 2008
To each (bull) his own
By Munro Leaf, drawings by Robert Lawson
1936, Viking Juvenile
Paperback editions by Puffin Books
Great children's stories enjoy a remarkable shelf life. And the very best become immortal, permanent fixtures that lurk in our collective unconscious, awaiting the joy of rediscovery when we become parents.
"Ferdinand" is one of those.
Before my daughter was born, a stranger mentioned the story in passing -- I can't remember why, or where. Still, her comment made me want to revisit this old friend, and I wound up reading the whole thing on the bookstore floor, delighted anew.
Some months later I bought a copy for a friend's daughter. And when I saw a used paperback edition on clearance at a local bookshop last year, I snatched it up, even though my own progeny could not yet be trusted in arm's reach of anything less sturdy than a board book.
At 2, she is finally old enough to enjoy "Ferdinand." The larger lessons -- diversity, pacifism, a mother's wisdom -- escape her, and may take years to sink in. In the meantime, she'll simply enjoy the story of a gentle bull's insistence on doing what he enjoys best, smelling flowers in the shade of a cork tree.
A final note: At 66 pages, this book at first heft might seem the kind that makes you groan when tiny hands press it into yours at bedtime. Be not afraid: The test is well-aired among the spare pen and ink drawings, and reciting is through in no time at all.
Well if you were a bumble
bee and a bull sat on you what
would you do? You would
sting him. And that is just what
this bee did to Ferdinand...