Poetry Friday:The Story of Ferdinand the Bull by Matt Mason

Poetry Friday is hosted by Irene at Live Your Poem.

Tucked away in our attic, is a box full of picture books we used to read to our three kids, night after night, when they were of picture book age.  I haven’t read any of these books in a very long time, but I could recite them all – word for word. I have a feeling that my children would as well…which is what happens when you are read the same books night after night, because you just have to hear these stories.

These early books, these beloved books, are deeply woven into the fabric of our family’s memories of bedtime, and the habit of reading before drifting off into sleep.  These were stories of rhythm and rhyme, of a gentle world, and small moments: Goodnight Moon, Blueberries For SalMake Way For Ducklings, Madeline, The Snowy Day, and this:



Remember Ferdinand? My children loved Ferdinand…they loved his sweet spirit, and the way he refused to give up his vision of the world as he saw it – a world in which it was enough to pay attention to flowers, just flowers.  I never thought of the lessons my children took from these early books very much, but these days, when they are all grown up and far away, I do.On some days, I wish I could haul that box of books into my sixth grade classroom and read them aloud again.   I think they would find wisdom and comfort in these luminous stories…as I still do.

The Story of Ferdinand the Bull  by Matt Mason


Dad would come home after too long at work
and I’d sit on his lap to hear
the story of Ferdinand the Bull; every night,
me handing him the red book until I knew
every word, couldn’t read,
just recite along with drawings
of a gentle bull, frustrated matadors,
the all-important bee, and flowers—
flowers in meadows and flowers
thrown by the Spanish ladies.
Its lesson, really,
about not being what you’re born into
but what you’re born to be,
even if that means
not caring about the capes they wave in your face
or the spears they cut into your shoulders.
And Dad, wonderful Dad, came home
after too long at work
and read to me
the same story every night
until I knew every word, couldn’t read,
just recite.


15 thoughts on “Poetry Friday:The Story of Ferdinand the Bull by Matt Mason

  1. Ah, the books we read to our kids stay in our hearts. I can still recite I Can Read with my Eyes Shut by Dr. Seuss. I think your sixth graders would enjoy these favorites because they could see a bit of your heart.

  2. It is wonderful to recall the bedtime story tradition that we enjoyed as children and then passed on to our children. I hope that someday, there will be another generation of children who will love the books I have kept. Thanks for bringing back those memories, Tara.

  3. I love this post. For me, one of the best things about having children was being able to read bedtime stories together. And, yes, we have at least several boxes of picture books in our basement I can’t bear to part with. (Just in case there might be a grandchild or two!) I believe that children learn so much from those early stories. One of my graduate study papers was entitled: Books That Love Children, in which I wrote about the moral influence that many classic children’s books have on children. The books I wrote about were: the Curious George series, the Babar series, and the Maplewood Farm series. And, oh yes, my son was Ferndinand when he joined Little League and stood out in the field completely oblivious to the game, his mind on so many other things.

  4. Great post. There are stories from my own childhood wich I can still recite, plus ones from my children’s years. Now I have grandchildren and am starting again – though of course some of the old favourites are being used.

  5. I still have some of the books, and Ferdinand is one, and now I read to the grandchildren. I love the poem, and imagine it touches many, as it touched you, Tara. Imi’s teacher reads those old ones to the kindergarteners, and Imi’s favorite is Blueberries for Sal, which I have, too. Love hearing your words about the memories, too.

  6. Oh, what a beautiful celebration, not just of a much beloved picture book, but of the power of children’s literature, and the importance of taking the time to read with our children. As a children’s librarian this poem just absolutely made my day, thank you for sharing it!

  7. A poem about Ferdinand! How wonderful. I’ve just been reaquainting myself with some songs from my childhood… I am amazed that I can still recite these songs that I haven’t even thought of if years and years… how things live inside us, and we don’t even know — until we do. Thank you for sharing!

  8. What a great memory of a classic. Your post brings to mind some of the books I enjoyed with our kiddos. We also had some favorite illustrators, like Eloise Wilkins. How we studied those pictures.

  9. What a wonderful post. It made me want to reread Ferdinand and to rummage through shelves for other favorites and slip back to sweet bedtimes with my now-grown children. By the way, the Guidance Counselor at our school actually uses Ferdinand in her lessons. Love the poem and your shared memories! Thanks for a great post!

  10. I love these lines:
    …Its lesson, really,
    about not being what you’re born into
    but what you’re born to be,
    Thank you for bringing us the memory of an old friend. I like to think that Ferdinand has grandchildren in our literature today.

  11. I see no reason why you shouldn’t bring those books into the sixth grade. Maybe some of the titles would be new to your students, and the books’ lessons, or their simple musicality, would resonate with them.

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