Monday, January 26, 2009

Happy Chinese New Year!

January 26 begins the Year of the Ox! To celebrate what is known as the Year of the Ox, or Bull, or Water Buffalo, here is a list of possible Oxen themed reads:

Everyone knows the legend of Paul Bunyan and his big blue ox, Babe. Like everything American they are big enough to settle their big new country. And soon there will be a movie.

2. The Ox-Cart Man / Donald Hall, illus. by Barbara Cooney.

Originally a poem, and much revised into a picture book, this lovely old-fashioned story takes us through a country year with a self-sufficient family. This 18th century farming family uses an ox-cart to take their goods to market, where they sell everything including the ox and the cart in order to buy the things they need. The ox-cart man walks home to begin building another cart and raising another ox for next year. Perfectly illustrated by the inimitable Barbara Cooney.

3. The Story of Ferdinand / Munro Leaf

Okay, so Ferdinand is a bull, not an ox, but he is so delightfully charming I had to include him. I loved Ferdinand the peacenik bovine from the time I was a child. Just because Ferdinand is a bull doesn't mean he wants to be in a bullfight; he'd rather sit and smell the flowers -- until the day that five men come to find the meanest bull around for the bullring, and Ferdinand just happens to sit on a bee at that moment. The pacifist sensibilities of the story still hold up; it was published at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War and was seen by some as a comment on that situation. You can also watch a Disneyfied film from 1938.

Although in previous years I've chosen 5 representative books for the animal, this one was much more difficult! Even though I've been mulling it over for the past year I have only come up with three ox related stories. Please share if you have any more!


  1. Oh, I love Ferdinand! I'd forgotten all about him until you mentioned him here....I've got to go run out and get that story for my kids!

  2. Oh, yes, Ferdinand! Thanks for the reminder!

  3. My 3 year old is obsessed with bulls -- has been for over a year now -- and he absolutely adores FERDINAND! He's made me read the book to him (and also watched the Disney cartoon on YouTube) about a billion times...

    If you know of any other bull-related or themed picture books please send the recs along, I could use some variety! When I went to Fundamentals and asked for bull-related books the closest thing they could come up with were COWS and THE GRUFFALO.

  4. I love Ferdinand, too! I used to say my son was like Ferdinand because when he started to play soccer at age 6, he used to stand out in the field and smell the flowers instead of paying attention to the game. Can't say I blamed him!

  5. R.J. - well, I've been thinking about this for a year and have come up pretty dry! But I'll give it another go for you.

    Gentle Reader - I can just picture that! So cute.

    Michele - hope your kids like it!

    Jenclair - when I thought of Ferdinand I recalled exactly the primary school library I first saw the book at. Weird.


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