And Then There Are Books I Love…

I've been feeling shame-faced about trying to take down Strawberry Shortcake. I mean, she too is loved. Who am I to mock what kids go for? And we are all, in some way, God's poor flawed children, right? Even the person who wrote Meet Blueberry Muffin. I suppose on some level I subscribe to The Believer's tenet (poorly paraphrased): snarkiness gets you nowhere (though I do enjoy reading some scathing reviews, but it's probably not my best self that enjoys it).

And it is in that spirit that I thought for a while about what I love, what I feel is the other side of the Strawberry Shortcake coin, and it's this:


This was not a book of my childhood, I somehow missed it entirely, and when Diana was about 3, and was already blazingly and wonderfully, um, individual, a friend gave her this excellent book, along with a very nice plastic cow and baby bull, saying, "It's since she's a Ferdinand." And I had no idea what she meant.

Then I read it, and know what you probably all know: that this is a story of a bull who didn't act the way bulls are expected to act. He wants to sit, just quietly, and smell the flowers, while the other bulls jump and fight. And yes, there is a harrowing scene where he sits on a bee (we had to just skip that page for a good many years). And yes, you might have to talk a bit about bullfighting, which is dicey even among adults. But the drawings are so beautiful, and the language is so excellent, and to read it aloud is … it's just wonderful. It's a pure pleasure.

10 thoughts on “And Then There Are Books I Love…

  1. Ferdinand is one of the loveliest books in my memory. My mother had a copy in Latin, and I had her childhood copy. When my daughter was born, my aunt gave her a brand new copy. She and my son have loved it so that it looks as old as the one I inherited. Ah, Ferdinand.


  2. I don’t think you should feel bad about dissing Strawberry Shortcake. I dissed The Berenstain Bears on my blog recently for some similar reasons (
    People who care about children’s books and care that they respect children *should* bemoan poorly written books with dubious moral messages, in part because some people out there seem to think that Ferdinand and Strawberry Shortcake are pretty much the same intellectual level simply because they’re both written for children. Ferdinand is to Strawberry Shortcake what War and Peace is to a Danielle Steele novel.


  3. I love, love, love this book. Loved it as a child, couldn’t wait to read it to my daughter. Was utterly shocked that my husband didn’t know the book from his childhood. Daughter requested it all the time. The first time husband read it he said “oh, well of course.” Apparently I, too, am a Ferdinand.


  4. I didn’t discover this book until I was an adult either, but I LOVE it. My students loved it and my kids, hmmm. Have I read it to them? Oh, my gosh. I am getting it out right NOW!


  5. What Farrar said.
    Ferdinand is a great book, I’m glad you reminded me of its existence. I also realized that I must rush out and buy it for my own children, if it’s still in print here in this country.


  6. Love this one! Do you remember the book about the little house and the city grew up around it and they moved it to the country. I had this book, the house book and Mike Mulligan in a set as a kid and I loved them all.
    Also, I know I was defending Strawberry yesterday, but you shouldn’t feel bad about it. We all have different priorities for our kids, that have to do with our pasts and our tastes. No shame in that.


  7. Thank you for posting this. Ferdinand was one of my mother’s all time favorite books (and as an early-reading specialist, she knew a lot of books!). A million years ago, when Beanie Babies came out with a red bull, she snapped up about 10 of them, intending to give them as baby gifts with a copy of Ferdinand, only to discover that poor Ferd was out of print in this country in the 1990s. Shortly after her death in 2001, I was able to find Ferdinand in an anthology and bought them up to give away with the Beanies, and have subsequently been happy to see it back in print. Love love love this book!


  8. I have a dim memory of reading this as a child, but nothing more than a sort of warm feeling. But recently my first-grader’s school was hosting an event called MotherRead/FatherRead, where parents could come in, read a book together, then take it home to read with their kids. And this was the book. The amazing conversation this book inspired in a room full of teachers and parents! And then to come home and read it with my kids, talking about why Ferdinand was different and, yes, what bull fighting is (and why our sense of what is “right” may change over time). And one thing I love is that the pictures are so clearly hand-done, with beautiful little details like the expressions on Ferdinand’s face.
    I am all in favor of new stuff; I hope I’m not a “everything was better when I was little” person. But sometimes I’m reminded why we call things classics–because they’re really, really good.


  9. I loved this book so much, but I think I appreciate it even more as an adult.
    I love it so much that I’m considering getting a tattoo of Ferdinand (seriously). Here is a picture of one (not mine) – . ā¤
    I also loved Berenstein Bears as a child though, so….my tastes were a little hit-and-miss šŸ™‚ .


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