Editor’s Note: As the dog days of summer set in, it may just be time to trade an afternoon in the sun for some sweet books in the shade. Here are a few that make our OBE all-time favorite list. First reviewed in 2008, they are the perfect mix of fun, sweetness and classic goodness. Enjoy!
When I was a kid, I loved the loners. The ones who stood out and moved away from the crowd always won my heart – especially if they found themselves stepping back in the name of a big, gentle heart.
Characters like Thumbelina, Aslan and Pippi Longstocking took their rightful places as staples in the imaginary world I thrived in thanks to stories. Right in there with them was Ferdinand.
The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf, illustrated by Robert Lawson was one of those books which literally fell apart in my hands after its millionth reading.
And, as we are currently heavy into farm life and getting to know our friend Popsicle from the Hands-on Farm, it was time for our daughter to discover Ferdinand for herself.
Ferdinand, written in 1936, is the tale of a bull who dreamed of flowers rather than fighting. Nothing can talk this sweet-natured beast out of his profound pacificsm – which left the story and Leaf on the receiving end of heavy criticism for its “subversive” nature when originally published in the violent lead up to Word War II.
Today, it lives among one of the most beloved children’s books ever and our tiny person is so much in agreement with his sensibility that she has gone so far as to pull Ferdinand right out of the story and bring him into our everyday lives as her new favourite pal.
This story is sweet and charming while also sparking discussion with older kiddos about violence for sport (bull fighting) and cruelty to animals as well as that of cultural traditions and historical reference points.
The tiny person has often asked me what happens to the “boy cows.” Now that she has her answer, sort of, she tells me that she likes boy cows who like flowers. (I love that kid)
A fair bit more modern, and all about having fun with farm friends, we’ve recently renewed a fascination with Baby Danced the Polka by Karen Beaumont, illustrated by Jennifer Plecas.
My aunt gifted our daughter this book as a first birthday present and we go through phases with it where reading it at least once a day is required for dancing purposes.
The whole theory of dancing silly polka style with a whole crew of farm animals is golden in the toddler universe. This tale full of rhyming, goofy antics and parents with a sense for when to just give in and have some fun makes you want to jump around the room singing with the Schmenge Brothers until everyone is too tired to polka any more.
Beaumont has a sweet sensibility about how she crafts stories, leading us all through a fun tale that gears up long enough to make everyone smile and then winds us down with a sense of satisfaction that plenty of silliness has taken place.
Matched with Plecas’ cute as pie illustrations, you connect kids to the farm and its creatures in a good natured way that makes them want to learn more – as long as goofy dancing is involved.
So, as you head out to the Hands-on Farm, Seaview Game Farm or a friend’s this Summer to visit with the animals, try these stories on for size to draw the connections and give your family stories to keep with them long after a day at the farm is through. Both are available through your local library branch.
Book covers courtesy of Penguin Publishing