From the time I was 3, until my parents just couldn’t stand it anymore, I made them, or a sibling, aunt, older cousin — whomever was in the vicinity — read Ferdinand the Bull to me. Before long, I had that book down pat, word for word. Funny that at the time, I lived Eloise-style in a hotel. Into the lobby, I'd carry my copy of Ferdinand. Then, plop myself next to a guest and attempt to astonish him or her by reading the book aloud — until a family member yanked me away.
What is this simple book's appeal? Why such obsession at an early age? It's quite simple, really: A young bull in Spain — who prefers sitting under a cork tree to snorting and butting heads with fellow bulls.
By a twist of fate, he meets the wrong end of a bee on the day five men come to select the “biggest, fastest, roughest bull” for the bullfights in Madrid. Once in the bull ring, though, he gets over it. He continues his non-violent way of life, ignoring the brutish bullfighters. He sees “the flowers in all the lovely ladies’ hair... "
The message in this timeless tale is, of course, somewhat pacificist. Ferdinand's poetic inaction — in the face of being uprooted from his beloved cork tree and thrown into the Matador's tantrums — is the heart and soul of this story. The other takeaway message? It's perfectly OK to be yourself. Ferdinand never feels pressured to be an aggressive bull or join in the antics of his peers.
Note: There's a message for your grandchildren’s parents, too: Ferdinand's mother, on understanding that he is not lonely, but perfectly content with his chosen way of life, “let him just sit there and be happy.” This is a children's book with, quite possibly, the happiest of all happy endings.
How well do you get along with your grandchild and other family members? Want to know if your personalities mesh?Find out here.