Thursday, March 09, 2006


Like many North American kids, I loved the children's classic The Story of Ferdinand. I even remember getting it: I was in Grade Two and it was my first experience with the ubiquitous Scholastic Book Club, and Ferdinand was the first book I ever ordered. I adored Robert Lawson's illustrations, immediately related to the pacifist message (as much as a seven year old can -- my first experience with left-leaning politics?), laughed every time I read of Ferdinand's exploits in the bullfighting ring, and it has stayed in my collection ever since.

I re-discovered its sad, yellowed pages, cover long gone, in my 11 year old son's collection a couple of days ago, and was curious about its history. From Wikipedia:

The Story of Ferdinand (1936) is a children's book by American writer Munro Leaf, his best-known work. It tells the story of a bull who prefers to smell flowers rather than fight in bullfights.

The book was released at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, and so was seen by many supporters of Francisco Franco as a pacifist book. It became a target of the right wing, being banned in many countries, and—perhaps because of that suppression—was promoted by many on the left. It was banned in Nazi Germany but was one of the few non-Communist books promoted in Soviet-occupied Poland.

Who knew?

My son, who now owns this book, is the human equivalent of Ferdinand. His early experiences on a soccer pitch were definitely of the 'stop and smell the flowers' variety. He made his coaches mental with frustration, but insisted on playing for several years (much to my chagrin) in an effort to be like his big brother and dad. His Grade One teacher, a total control freak, wanted to knock both our heads together after dealing with him -- and then dealing with me! Like Ferdinand, he is this tall, good looking, active kid, who so does not live in the Real World or subscribe to the mainstream, and is completely oblivious to the fact. So far. He lives in a world of make believe and creativity and I've never seen him bored. He invents each day for himself. He loves small children and all animals, I've never seen him competitive about anything or with anyone, even his brother -- and he's probably the happiest person I know.

#2 son, at age 7, 'riding his scooter'

Since he first held a crayon, #2 son has expressed a vision so unique that it amazes less creative mortals like me. His favourite computer activity is creating stick-figure animations. Earlier this week he took a jpeg of a painting I'd made using some of his drawings as my inspiration (are you with me still?), photoshopped it and then created a short animation. That's what I call creative collaboration at its finest. (And if I can upload a .gif to this blog, please tell me how and I'll post it.)


Blogger Joyce said...

love the photo- and your mothers heart.

9/3/06 1:39 p.m.  
Blogger Reluctant Nomad said...

That book sounds lovely - I wish I had come across it as a child. It's interesting how siblings can be so different yet still be obviously siblings in ways that has nothing to do with similarity in looks.

In the past, I've managed to upload gifs using blogger with success. At some stage, something changed and blogger turns gifs into jpegs which is rather annoying. I suggest you upload them to external storage space and then refer to them here by their url. Flickr may work but then you have less control on where to place it. Free space tends to be limited in bandwidth so you may have to find/pay for space that has unrestricted bandwidth or upload on to a friend's space. I have space should you need it.

9/3/06 1:45 p.m.  
Blogger carla said...

I too loved that book as child! Your research certainly turned up some fascinating information, the kind of backstory I love learning. It's interesting that finding the book has made you stop and think about your son and his connection to the spirit of the character and message:> He sounds like a wonderful kid! I think one of the many joys of motherhood is watching how your children's traits develop over time. As far as the animation goes - if you were to put up a hidden page on your "official" website that doesn't have a link from any other page, you could use that as a holding tank for images that might not go up on blogger or flikr. You should be able to upload a gif to your own site. That's what I do for some of my images. I hope you'll be able to share your animation with us!

9/3/06 3:31 p.m.  
Blogger Toni said...

Hi Andrea,
I think it's wonderful that your son marches to a different drummer. Don't let any teachers squish that creative spirit.
I posted an animated gif for IF one time.
I uploaded the image to a hidden page on my web site and created a link. If you need help or space let me know.

9/3/06 4:22 p.m.  
Blogger Laini Taylor said...

Andrea, I LOVE the horse painting a few posts back, and I really enjoyed reading about Adam -- your son, I'm presuming? Sounds like a great kid -- I was also a kid who never got bored, lived in a world of make-believe, saw so much fun and magic all around -- and my exposure (limited) to kids these days has been my niece playing Sims for hours on end and being "bored" and listening to her MP3 player -- glad to hear not ALL kids have gone down that road!

9/3/06 5:59 p.m.  
Blogger Brian the Mennonite said...

I can honestly say that I don't think I'd ever read that story before...I'm so embarrassed, so I read it now through your link. Thanks.

But if that's all I said about your post, I would have missed so much. This post was so much more. It was, like Joyce said, about your mother's heart. You made me tear up as I thought of my own kids as I read.
Your boys are lucky to have a mom like you. This post was dripping with history, love, honesty, attention to detail, as was composed with an artist's eye.
I read it about 15 times and composed myself enough this time to comment. If I wasn't already a regular, I would attach myself now.
And that is an award winning photo. 1000 words.

9/3/06 8:09 p.m.  
Blogger Nan said...

Brian said it all. I was really touched reading your words about your special son. You must be a wonderful mom to see who your son is and describe him with so much depth, insight and love. About the book, my kids loved it when they were young. What a great comparison you have made for your son who dares to be himself. Thanks for sharing.

9/3/06 9:16 p.m.  
Blogger andrea said...

Joyce: You'd know!

Nomad: There was a time my two boys looked so similar that people would get them mixed up, but that same Grade One teacher had both boys and her experience couldn't have been more different! :) I tried to just upload the .gif and that's what happened. I'll see what I can do in Flickr next, but I may be calling for help -- if you can manage 5 MG.

Carla and Toni: I thought about my own site but I've reached my plan's space limit. I actually have to dump images now to add more. :(

Laini: Adam likes his computer games if they have an interactive/creative element, but mostly he has real trouble with anything passive, requiring complete engagement in what he's doing.

Brian: Thanks a thousand ... and more. *sniff* I guess, as Munro Leaf says, I am an understanding mother, even if I am just a cow. :)

Nan: You say that like you've never heard me shouting at him! :) I figure that with great challenge comes great reward. He's in the easy years right now which is fantastic. Talk to me again when he's 15. :)

9/3/06 9:25 p.m.  
Blogger kyknoord said...

That picture of him 'riding his scooter' is brilliant. Worth more than a thousand words in my book :)

9/3/06 9:55 p.m.  
Blogger justin said...

Another wonderful blog, Andrea.

I don't know what other webspace you're using, but there's free space at Angelfire dot com, where I've set up another website. You have to put up with a few ads (which pay for this service).

9/3/06 11:27 p.m.  
Blogger Caroline said...

Gosh what a wonderful story - thank you!

And Adam sounds like a wonderful son to have.

Thank you for sharing your wonders with us.

10/3/06 12:06 a.m.  
Blogger megg said...

I remember that book! I had totally forgotten about it. What a child you have. I hope that he and you can get through life keeping that gentleness and creativity alive. He's special! Do you wonder what he will come up with artistically? I bet you can't wait!

10/3/06 1:06 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Awwww, Andrea this was a brilliant post. I loved being reminded of a childhood favorite and also reading about your amazing son.
Have a great weekend,

10/3/06 7:13 a.m.  
Blogger Reluctant Nomad said...

Have you managed to sort out your .gif yet?

5MB isn't a problem. Let me know if you need help.

12/3/06 2:11 p.m.  
Blogger It is the question said...

Hey! That was my favourite book as a kid. Closely followed by the books about Madeleine, the Fench convent school girl.

Perhaps I too was something of a Ferdinand as a kid.

13/3/06 9:43 a.m.  

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