Books It's Monday What Are You Reading Oddballs and Misfits Picture Books Read-a-Latte Reading Themes

Monday Reading: A Philosopher Bogeyman and a Fiercely-Gentle Bull – Meet Fungus and Ferdinand

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen and Kellee from Teach Mentor Texts (and brainchild of Sheila at BookJourney). Two of our blogging friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have inspired us to join this vibrant meme.

Last Week’s Review and Miscellany Posts

Here are a few of the reviews we have done last week. We are also inviting everyone to join our Award-Winning-Books Reading Challenge. We hosted the AWB Challenge last year and we are thrilled to be able to host it again. Do sign up if you are looking for exciting reading challenges with monthly book prizes. Click on the titles/images below to be taken to our blog posts.

IMG_4900IMG_4991

IMG_5655

Click on the image to be taken to the websource.
Click on the image to be taken to the websource.

Photo Journal/ A-Z Photo Challenge: J is for Jellyfish

Featured Guests for Oddballs and Misfits Theme: An Oscar/Academy Award Winner (Shaun Tan), a Linguist (Professor Tuting Hernandez) and an Artist (Danny Castillones Sillada)

Stumbling Upon Monsters in Art and Music

GatheringReaders 2013: Virtual Discussion 3 – Email an Author/Book Artist

Book Hunting Expedition (43): Anthony Browne, Berkeley Breathed, Raymond Briggs, Freya Blackwood and More

IMG_5997

We are truly excited about our current bimonthly theme as we celebrate Oddballs and Misfits and highlight the Surreal and the Peculiar in the next two months. Here are two gorgeous picture books that seem to fit the bill just right: a bogeyman going through an existential crisis and a fiercely-gentle bull.

IMG_5446The Story of Ferdinand

Text By: Munro Leaf
Drawings by: Robert Lawson
Publisher: The Viking Press, first published in 1936. Bought my own copy. Book photos taken by me.

The first time I learned about this book was through the movie Blind Side. Sandra Bullock (who won the Academy Award for Best Actress in this film) described Michael Oher (played by Quinton Aaron) as Ferdinand the Bull with his exquisitely gentle nature. She found the story book in a store and even read it aloud to her children. I knew right then and there I had to find this classic book. I am so glad I found my own copy, which incidentally happens to be the 75th Anniversary Edition. I bought it while I was visiting the Philippines in January of this year.

Historical Notes: A Pacifist Book? The Story of Ferdinand was published in 1936 the same year as the Spanish Civil War breakout. This led many people to regard this book as a pacifist-propaganda-material promoting anti-war sentiments. The setting of the book is in Spain – which, in itself, is unusual for an English storybook. The story also reminded me a little bit of Allen Say’s El Chino with references to bull-fighting. It also makes delicious references to banderilleros, picadores, and the handsome Matador with the red red cape. Amidst all this backdrop is a fiercely-gentle bull defying all stereotypes and expectations.

IMG_6072

A Different Kind of Bull – Shattering the Stereotype. Ferdinand has always been different since he was young. Unlike other young bulls who enjoyed roughhousing, jumping around and butting their heads together, Ferdinand preferred to sit among the flowers in quiet contemplation: “He had a favorite spot out in the pasture under a cork tree.”

IMG_6066

Initially, Ferdinand’s mother worried about his seeming-isolation from the other bulls. Ferdinand, however, indicated with a measure of quiet certainty that he likes to just sit quietly to smell the flowers. When his mother saw how much he enjoyed and valued his solitude, she let him be, as this is clearly what gives him joy.

IMG_6067

Eventually, Ferdinand grew to be huge and strong while remaining gentle-natured. While the other bulls are scrambling all over each other to be picked for the bull fights in Madrid, Ferdinand couldn’t really care less. He would amble steadily and slowly, absorbed in his own imaginings. It so happened, however, that he accidentally sat on a bumble bee at the same instant that there were men selecting bulls for a fight – and they chanced upon what they thought was a raging, fierce bull – an absolute champion, and sure to be the darling of the crowd. Little did they know that it was just a naughty little bumble bee that caused such an uproar. How the story ends, I shall leave for you to discover. There is just so much to love and enjoy about this book, the clear and deceptively-simple narrative and the gorgeous black and white illustrations are foremost among them.

Teacher Resource. There are so many layers that can be teased out from this book, depending on which grade level is being taught. I anticipate that children across different ages would find something new and always something to love from Ferdinand. It is also a celebration of distinctiveness and a quiet acceptance of one’s uniqueness and the quiet comfort that it brings. I was able to find quite a few resources that might be helpful for teachers who wish to make use of this in class. This link from teachervision includes several possible arts and craft activities that can be initiated in class. This downloadable pdf link created by education.miami.edu is also filled with pages and pages of possible discussion arcs, a list of learning experiences that can be culled from the narrative, and possible classroom activities that can be done with the students. Here is another downloadable pdf link created by tc2.ca (Kirsten Lintott) which happens to be a complete teachers’ guide to this lovely story along with a set of printable worksheets that can be used in class.

Here’s the Disney version entitled Ferdinand the Bull. While it does not have the beautiful line art of Robert Lawson, it gives you an idea of how charming and timeless this story is.

Fungus the BogeymanIMG_5986

Story and Illustrations By: Raymond Briggs
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton, London, 1977.
Book borrowed from the NIE library. Book photos taken by me.

I first discovered Raymond Briggs through a talk that Janet Evans gave at my institution (NIE – National Institute of Education) sometime in 2010. It left such an indelible impression that I had to borrow all of the available Raymond Briggs’ books from our library and I have been a huge fan ever since. Briggs is a league of his own – a different caliber altogether, inspiring even academics such as Janet Evans to study his works in such fine detail and great depth.

This entire book is a compendium of grisly facts about the entire Bogeydom – from their smelly, dank, and disgustingly-drippy bedsheets to their favorite meals during breakfast (flaked corns anyone? or quite possibly golden waxy bits?) – to details about the Bogey anatomy – certain sections however have been withheld for propriety’s sake and “out of concern for Bogey privacy.”

No Ordinary Bogeyman. As the reader gets increasingly nauseous about the devilishly-horrid details (milk has to be curdled until it’s nearly solid, ripe and fuscous egg smells, the ghastly lavatory and its abominable smells) – the reader meets Fungus who is no ordinary bogeyman. He is a closet-philosopher, an existentialist, a sensitive soul.

IMG_6061

While he acknowledges that he used to enjoy scaring the ‘drycleaners’ (the Bogeymen’s reference to people such as ourselves who live clean and dry on the surface) out of their wits, tapping at windows, turning doorknobs, banging doors, knocking slates off roofs, making hapless individuals scream and shriek in fright as he engenders a boil in the most unlikely places in a poor unsuspecting sleeping human’s body – he feels that “It’s just a routine now” and he constantly wonders why he does what he does and what the point of his existence is. Here is a snapshot of a conversation between Fungus and his friend Fester as he tries to articulate the ‘winter of his discontent.’

IMG_6063

The Public Liberality and the Love for Empty [inaccurate] Platitudes and Useless Quotations. More than anything though, I was particularly fascinated by the fact that most bogeymen are avid readers and they do enjoy going to their public liberality (which as you can deduce is their public library). They do love their books and would even lick and suck on them on occasion. I also enjoyed reading through “bogey graffiti” which according to archivist/documentor Briggs is “never scatological. It almost always consists of platitudes or grave philosophical statements.” 

IMG_6058

This picture book is way ahead of its time (published in 1977) in its vision, inventiveness, postmodern vibe with the book artist maintaining a blithe, farcical, borderline-facetious seeming-conversation with its reader – the attention to the tiniest detail is astounding and the theme resonates with young people who may be struggling with their own identities and finding their place in the world. Even before there was Neil Gaiman, Raymond Briggs had a cult following during this time with the incomparable Fungus the Bogeyman.

Teacher resources. For teachers who may wish to use this in the classroom, here is a valuable downloadable resource pack (pdf file) created by pilot-theatre which also describes the theatre act that has been inspired by this brilliant book. It includes literacy activities such as Bogey Poetry, drama activities, art and design activities, and even includes a Do Your Own Costume tips and suggestions.

Apparently, this classic graphic novel has been turned into a film, here is a snippet that I have a feeling you’d enjoy.

And here’s Fungus’ poetry for you all (a mish-mash of thoughts from various poets philosophers writers). Here’s to celebrating beautiful strangenesses wherever we find it.

Oh well,
Here we go…
Off to work again…
Onwards
Always onwards,
In Silence
And in Gloom…
I wonder what 
It’s all FOR?….
The brimming dykes are not so full
As my heart’s silent swell…
A steam of rich
distill’d perfumes.
I am a man of unclean lips
and I dwell in the midst of a people 
of unclean lips…
Long is the way 
and hard, that out of here
leads up to light
this seat of desolation
void of light
There must be
more to life
than this..
Oh, the sweet contentment
The pattyman doth find
Just keep pegging way
I suppose it’s all I’m fit for…

Currently Reading…

DSC_0414

IMG_5493

I still am going through these two books. I am making much progress with Miss Peregrine and I am enjoying myself immensely. Not much progress with Fire Spell though (also known as Splendors and Glooms) by Laura Amy Schlitz.

How about you, dear friends, what have you been reading this week?

readalattechallenge_zps01d248d0

54, 55 of 150

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Singapore. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she serves as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads or meeting up with her book club friends, she is smashing that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life.

20 comments on “Monday Reading: A Philosopher Bogeyman and a Fiercely-Gentle Bull – Meet Fungus and Ferdinand

  1. Oh Ferdinand 🙂 I haven’t thought of that book in ages! Happy happy reading!

    Like

  2. Fungus the Bogeyman is so cute!
    I read Miss Peregrine’s but it’s disappointng for me. I thought it was about horror, but it was not. Happy reading, still 🙂

    my IMWAYR

    Like

  3. I can’t believe I haven’t read Ferdinand yet. I must rectify that soon!

    Like

  4. Ferdinand is one of my all time favorites! Fungus looks really interesting too! Have a great week!

    Like

  5. Ferdinand was always one of my children’s favorites, along with Virginia Lee Burton’s The Little House. Do love the pictures.

    Like

  6. I don’t remember many books form childhood, but I do remember Ferdinand. Thanks for all of the information about the book. I am not familiar with Briggs and look forward to rectifying that. Fungus the Bogeyman is such a great title, I already want to read it. Have fun reading Miss Peregrine. I thought it was an amazingly original story. I was fascinated.

    Like

  7. Amazing graphics, so intriguing! I do not remember seeing any of these books, but reading during my childhood was more basics and then straight onwards to Louisa May Alcott and Judy Blume.
    Here is my Bookish Memes post.
    Have a great week!

    Like

  8. Every week I come to your blog and am blown away by the pictures! GORGEOUS!

    What are you reading @ The Brunette Librarian

    Like

  9. Fungus the Bogeyman looks hilarious.
    Have a great week!

    Like

  10. Gorgeous pictures. Fungus The Bogeyman looks like a great read. I enjoyed Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, especially the odd photographs were a nice touch. Hope you enjoy it as well!

    Take a look at what I’m reading this week!

    Like

  11. Ferdinand is a family favorite…how could it not be?!

    Like

  12. My husband’s favourite picture book is Ferdinand I will send this post to him 🙂 So lovely – wonderful post!

    Like

  13. I’m curious to hear how you end up feeling about Miss Peregrine’s, I actually mentioned it on my blog on Friday. Thanks for visiting my Monday post.

    LisaILJ @ I’ll Tumble for YA

    Like

  14. I found Ferdinand in a used book store in San Jose last month. I didn’t own my own copy so I had to buy it. I love the story, love the line drawings. I enjoyed your throwback-type reviews!

    Like

  15. Ferdinand has long been a favorite in our house, Myra. I’m glad you discovered it. I don’t know this Briggs book, but we have loved Father Christmas in our Christmas books for a long time, & The Snowman is good, too. I’ll be sure to look up the Bogeyman book! Thanks for all-the theme should be very fun!

    Like

  16. Ok, I absolutely love that you review picture books! I wish there were more blogs that did. 🙂

    http://littlesqueed.blogspot.com/2013/03/its-monday-what-are-you-reading.html

    Like

  17. So many people have complemented Miss P’s Home for Peculiar Children, that I think I shall have to give it a go this year. I hope you enjoy it, let me know? 🙂

    Like

  18. Pingback: Does the Accelerated Reader Program help develop Lifelong Readers? |

  19. Pingback: Bombs and their Aftermath in Children’s Stories: Maruki’s “Hiroshima No Pika” and Briggs’ “When The Wind Blows” | Gathering Books

  20. Pingback: [Saturday Reads] My Top Forty (or so) Picturebooks and Graphic Novels (Part 3 of 3) – Gathering Books

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: