Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Story of Ferdinand, by Munroe Leaf

I first heard this story through a Disney short film. I learned later in my life that Disney was not the most original man ever. In fact, he liked to let other people do the writing, and he simply illustrated with moving pictures. He did a wonderful adaptation of this short story about contentment and a hilarious misunderstanding.

Ferdinand the Bull is quiet, unassuming, and happy to just sit in the shade and smell the flowers. When an unfortunately timed bee-sting sends him to the Bull Fights in Madrid, we find that character rarely changes, even if incited. While the world vents their frustration at the Bull who will not fight, Ferdinand is perfectly happy to return to his pasture, his corktree, and his favorite pastime: contentedly smelling the flowers.

While Disney did a wonderful job of illustrating this story, Robert Lawson provided the obvious inspiration for Disney’s later footsteps. The drawings are both realistic, and cartoonish, in different ways. When Ferdinand is happy, and content, then the pictures seem romantically real. When people are involved, however, the world becomes slightly more cartoonish, though the drawings never stray too far from reality. These black and white drawings seem to jump out of the page for the reader, but never with any violence. Lawson instead seems to draw out the happiness that Ferdinand feels, and make that same contentment more easily touched and felt in the daily life of the reader.

The language is also very endearing and humourous. While the bulls do butt their horns, it’s only in play. The Matador really does want to poke the bull last of all with his sword, but the intentions are humorously outwitted by their own misunderstanding of Ferdinand. In all, the language is very good for beginning readers, who will also be able to keep track of the story simply through the pictures. This books matches illustrations with language to a delightful tale that is just as irresistible to the reader as it was for Disney.

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