With today’s societal divisions in science, politics, and economics, this beautiful book about the passive resistance by a bull, Ferdinand, is a must for everyone to read, not just kids. Although it was written in 1936 and begins with an outdated introduction, “Once upon a time…”, it’s basically perfect. The reader instantly grows to love Ferdinand as a young bull as he sits quietly and smells the flowers under a cork tree with absolutely no interest in the aggressive activity of the other little bulls who are butting heads. With the help of lines like, “and you know who that was” and “what would you do?”, Leaf strategically brings the reader a little closer to Ferdinand’s peaceful and happy life. In other words, there are other, more peaceful ways to behave, even for bulls.
The only small weakness I see in the book is at the end when Ferdinand refuses to fight the Banderilleros, the Pecadores, and the Matador and so they take him home. I thought Leaf could have written more about Ferdinand’s passive behaviour in the ring rather than abruptly carting Ferdinand home. A slightly more developed connection between those two scenes might have enhanced the poignancy of that moment. Lawson’s black and white drawings are spectacular - loose, somewhat abstract, and full of humour, making the reader fall in love with Ferdinand with every illustration.
No wonder this gem of a book was used as a call sign by the British Air Transport Auxiliary who were non-combatants after D-Day. And no wonder this book has never been out of print. In fact, with the world being upside down, it can never go out of print.