‘The story of Ferdinand’ by Munro Leaf
Interview with Hilary-Anne Salinger, Child & Adolescent Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist
Why do you like this book?
I loved this book as a child and my son loved it too. It is very dear to our hearts because it explores the path to individual identity, its challenges and its crucial importance to well-being. My son, now an adult, loved it for its portrayal of flexible masculinity, suggesting a choice about how he could express his gender identity.
What does it help Children to think about?
The story values aspects of oneself which are sensitive and contemplative and vindicates the desire not to engage with competitive and/or violent situations without condemning those who do. In life, this can be a difficult path, and takes courage and bravery. Ferdinand the Bull illuminates beautifully a style of parenting which values all forms of self-expression in children. It implies an empathy with the multi-faceted nature of identity, rough and strident, compliant and norm-seeking, gentle and artistic.
What other advice might you give to parents when talking about identity with their child?
The book is an encouragement to parents who wish to support their children when deviating from social expectations, but fear the alienation of their peers. It can be a good starting point for further conversations on this topic.