When I was a kid, Ferdinand was my all time favorite book. It was read to me over and over until I had it memorized. No one was allowed to skip pages no matter how far past my bedtime. I had a lot of questions, like, ‘what is a cork tree?’ and ‘why is his mother a cow?’ but I loved the way he would sit just quietly and smell the flowers.
With the new movie coming out, I read the book to my 2nd graders. It's never too early to learn that the book is always better. I haven't seen the movie yet, but the kids were excited to read the story that goes with it. One student exclaimed, "Miss Leestma, you're not even looking at the words!" Old habits die hard. I finished the book to a round of applause. I'm not going to lie, this is one of my favorite things about 2nd graders. Every so often you'll finish a book and they can't help but clap. I've often wondered why I loved a book so much that was published in 1936, 50 years before I was born, but, reading it with my class showed me that it still holds up another 31 years later.
Why do we love this story about a bull who won't fight? A bull who would rather smell the flowers in the ladies' hair? There are no flashy illustrations, no dramatic action scenes (unless you count getting stung by a bee), and our hero Ferdinand ends up right back where he started.
I think that we love that Ferdinand is himself. He doesn't bow to what others are doing. He knows he doesn't want to fight or go to Madrid. When he is taken away, he just kind of goes with the flow. At the end of the day, he's back under his favorite cork tree surrounded by what he loves best. Isn't that what we all want at the end of the day? Ferdinand has stood the test of time (even though his mother is a cow) and I hope it goes right on doing so.
Wishtree by Katherine Applegate. Go read and share this book with all the kids you know. This book is recommended for students in grades 3-6, but could be easily read aloud to younger students. I wasn't planning on reading this in an afternoon, but I did. The story, told by a tree (that's right: it turns out trees have a lot of stories to tell), is about friendship, loyalty, wishes come true, all sprinkled with a bit of magic. I'm not sure I'll look at trees the same way again. In fact, two days after reading this story, a large old tree in my neighborhood was taken down. I watched as branch by branch the tree was dismantled and turned to chips. I couldn't help but think about Red, our trusty wishtree, and all of the stories this tree next door had to tell.
Teacher, reader, tea drinker, and dog mom.