Treasuring the Gift of Ferdinand
by Judy Newman with Alexie Basil
I remember fondly many of the gifts I received as a child, including: a Creepy Crawlers bug-making kit; an 8-track tape deck; and a copy of The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf, illustrated by Robert Lawson, which is one of my favorite books of all time.
(There was just that one year when I got a full-length mirror for my birthday, which I thought was a really weird present. But usually I loved whatever anyone gave me.)
I’ve realized, though, that my nearly unconditional love of gifts may not be typical. I recently read an article by Bourree Lam in The Atlantic about the “deadweight loss” of gift giving around the holidays. Bourree explains this idea:
“The scrooge who came up with the term, economist Joel Waldfogel, literally wrote the book on the subject. Deadweight loss is the mismatch between what a gift giver thinks a receiver wants and what the receiver actually wants. This, in Waldfogel’s words, ‘is just the waste that arises from people making choices for other people. Normally I’ll only buy myself something that costs $50 if it’s worth at least $50 to me. When I go out and spend $50 on you, though, because I don’t know what you like and what you need, I could spend $50 and buy something that would be worth nothing to you.’”
Not true for me!
If you give me a gift, most of the time I will cherish it. If you spend $50 on me, or $5, or give me something you made yourself—I will treasure it…forever.
I am not a hoarder, but I have real trouble parting with meaningful gifts from people who are important to me. I even have trouble throwing away holiday cards—particularly photographic cards of kids. I just can’t bring myself to toss a photo of a child.
My son, John, sent me flowers for my birthday many (okay—many, many) years ago, and I was so touched that I just never could throw them away. I truly planned to one day make potpourri with them, but since I haven’t been able to figure out exactly how to make potpourri (and not just crumble the flowers in a bowl) the now-very-dead flowers are still sitting in the corner by the utility sink in my house.
Over the years, my daughter, Rebecca, has given me a collection of tote bags in all shapes and sizes. Even though many of them are approaching shabby—probably past their “use by” dates—I still use them as my carry-on luggage and fill them with my books and papers and gym clothes and refuse to replace them.
My husband, Jeff, is also an excellent and thoughtful gift giver. I save pretty much everything he has ever given me.
When you’ve been married for as long as we have, you start to run out of ideas for fresh gifts for your spouse. But when I was in Japan last month, I took a photo of this car and asked my husband what he thought of it. He confidently assured me that it would make a wonderful gift. Ha!
Many, many years ago—sometime between when I got my original copy of The Story of Ferdinand from my parents and when my kids gave me my now-dried flowers and lots of carry-on bags—I met David Vozar, and he gave me a mug featuring an adorable character named Chippy.
I still have that mug. It sits on the shelf in my office alongside lots of photos of my favorite people, next to the bookcase that also houses David’s new book starring Chippy, If Chippy Was Your Dog.
How cool is it that Chippy has been around—in different formats—as a treasured-by-me-gift-from-David for all these years?!
So to head back to where I started, I love getting—and giving—books as gifts.
Books are portable and affordable, and they make great hand-me-downs. They don’t have to be turned into potpourri. You don’t have to be embarrassed about keeping them around for too long. They don’t get shabby. Or smelly. (And they don’t cost nearly as much as even a toy Ferrari.)
Books are universal. And like all great gifts, they stay with you.
Recently, I received some particularly thoughtful books as presents. My adult friends (my “fremily”) got me a first edition of The Child World by Gabriel Setoun, published by John Lane the Bodley Head, and my husband gifted me an old edition of The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, which has an inscription: “To Jack from Molly,” dated 1943.
My colleagues at work got me a lovely “A Year in Books” subscription to Heywood Hill, a bookshop in London. The team there will carefully handpick and mail me an exceptional book each month based on my individual reading tastes.
This may seem like a busman’s holiday, but for me, books are some of the best gifts you can give me. I never, ever feel any sense of deadweight loss!
And indeed, one of my favorite gifts ever was The Story of Ferdinand—which was why I was thrilled we were able to start offering it in Scholastic Book Clubs years ago…and why I am so glad to be offering it today as our Dollar Deal to round out 2017.
The now-classic children’s book was originally published by Viking Press in 1936, and by 1938, it was selling 3,000 copies a week. Today, it has been translated into 60 languages and has sold more than 2.5 million copies around the globe. And this year, on its 80th anniversary, The Story of Ferdinand will be getting a whole new life as a movie starring John Cena and Kate McKinnon, opening in theaters December 15.
In The Story of Ferdinand, Ferdinand is completely content when he sits in the pasture, under the cork tree, smelling beautiful flowers. This has inspired many teachers to encourage their students to create their own “Happiness Pastures,” or happy places.
Ferdinand also inspired David to come up with his own interpretation of a “Happiness Pasture”:
That’s the thing about books—they help us think about the world differently. That lovable bull Ferdinand, for example, encourages us to stop and smell the flowers, and to appreciate the quiet places that make us happy.
The blog team was thrilled to delve into all the fascinating aspects of The Story of Ferdinand, including its unique history and impact on world events. The Book Boys present a 60-second storytelling challenge; we offer an in-class skit (along with a script you can use in your own classroom); and an ESL teacher shares how she uses the book to help students newly learning English, including teaching them Ferdinand’s favorite idiom (“to stop and smell the flowers”).
I know well that many kids may not have books at the top of their holiday gift lists. But I say, let’s give them books anyway. That is the work we do at Scholastic Book Clubs—to partner with you to make sure that every child receives the greatest gifts of books and reading and wonderful stories during the holidays and every day of the year.
I hope you’ll take advantage of our Dollar Deal (which is running through January 15, 2018) and that lots of readers in your life will get the gift of The Story of Ferdinand. Its message of simplicity and happiness is timeless and universal.
Happy Holidays and Happy Reading!
PS: This holiday season, as The Story of Ferdinand comes to life again in a new animated film, our Scholastic Book Clubs editors see the reimagining of familiar stories as a larger trend in children’s books. Check out the editors’ thoughtful list of predicted trends for next year—including many more books to watch out for—on Scholastic’s On Our Minds blog.
Don’t Miss the Dollar Deal from Scholastic Book Clubs