Search - List of Books by Munro Leaf
Wilnerd Monroe Leaf (aka Munro Leaf) (December 4, 1905 — December 21, 1976), was an American author of children's literature who wrote and illustrated nearly 40 books during his 40-year career. He is best known for The Story of Ferdinand (1936), a children's classic which he wrote on a yellow legal-length pad in less than an hour. Labeled as subversive, it stirred an international controversy.
Total Books: 99
Born in Hamilton, Maryland, Leaf graduated from the University of Maryland in 1927 and from Harvard University with a Master's degree in English literature in 1931. He taught secondary school and then worked as an editor with the publisher Frederick A. Stokes Company. Leaf once commented, "Early on in my writing career I realized that if one found some truths worth telling they should be told to the young in terms that were understandable to them."
He wrote The Story of Ferdinand for his friend, illustrator Robert Lawson. The story, which follows a gentle bull in rural Spain who prefers smelling flowers to bullfighting, sparked considerable controversy because Ferdinand was regarded by some as a pacifist symbol. Banned in Spain and burned as propaganda in Nazi Germany, the book had over 60 foreign translations and has never gone out of print. The story was adapted into a Walt Disney film which won a 1938 Academy Award. The English composer Alan Ridout set The Story of Ferdinand to music. A version in French, released on the Analekta label (Analekta AN2 8741-2), is Solo by Angèle Dubeau, narrated by Pierre Lebeau.
Mun, as he was fondly called, lived in Old Greenwich, Connecticut at the same time my family and grandparents, Eve and Carl Vollmer, lived there. My grandmother had been the first American girl to be the premiere danseuse at the Metropolitan Opera House, and moved there, from New York City, in the early 1940s. Old Greenwich was a bedroom community for New York City and most men commuted there by train during the day. Lined with Oaks and Maples, the town was small and cozy, and attracted very talented individuals. During these difficult pre/post year war times, these individuals gathered together to do something special for the community. There were many well known and highly talented people who participated in the group they started. All were friends of my grandparents, and were wonderful people to know.
He and many of these people created a group called The Connecticut Playmakers, a community group that developed the music, lyrics, costumes and settings for their own musical and dramatic productions in which they all participated. Everyone chipped in and either contributed their talents, when needed for the production, or did something else to assist the production, including selling the tickets. They were held in the local First Congregational Church, in a special room with a large stage. Each member had a professional background. Mun was the President of the group the second year, as a result of a practical joke that the other members thought they were playing on him by telling him he had been elected President for the next year, when they hadn't actually done that. They were surprised to find out he was delighted, never had the heart to tell him the truth, and were happy that he enjoyed it and did a good job.
The real name of the book about the mosquito was "Annie, the Anopheles Mosquito." ( "Connecticut Playmakers" oral history interview of Ruth Finch and Margaret E. Huggard by Nancy L. Wolcott 1977 Greenwich Public Library. pg. 15) Other reflections on Munroe and his wife include the following from the oral history.
Munroe and Tim Kitchell wrote the first work of the Connecticut Playmaker called "Corn on the Moon," and Mun played the part of Grandpa Vanderhof in the next production, called "You Can't Take It With You." Margaret Huggard remarked that "He was just so wonderful. Oh, that was a good show, It was really good." ( pg 11)
Towards the end of the interview, a longer and interesting story is told about an experience they had with him. They were all practicing dramatic reading for radio and got reprimanded for not doing good "glottal stops," which broke them up into tears laughing so hard. None of them took it very seriously. But Munroe came into the conversation and added the following. He said," 'You know, appearing on WGCH is like hollering down a well.' At that point it was. It was a limited station. It hadn't got its license even to cover tht town. Unless you had whatever it was- FM or whatever---to hear it by, you were cut off from all those lovely things." ( (pg 40)
His wife, Margaret, had studied play production and design at the University of North Carolina. Margaret, is lauded in the oral history for the professionalism of her set designs. She was an accredited designer, and her work was closely related to architecture, understanding the technicalities of her medium very well. ( pg 16)
Playbills of their productions still exist and give the biographies of the remarkable individuals involved- and there were many.
The library also has an oral history of Old Greenwich. A wonderful place to grow up, children were safe playing on their own. It was a time when there was no television and people were close knit- a wonderful small town atmosphere that is only now beginning to change.
.==Watchbirds==Leaf and Lawson's second collaboration, Wee Gillis, about a boy living in Scotland halfway between his father's family in the Highlands and his mother's in the Lowlands, was cited as a 1939 Caldecott Honor Book.
Leaf's other notable creation was the Watchbirds cartoon series, a cartoon commentary on human behavior which ran in the Ladies' Home Journal and was later collected into several books.
During the Second World War, Leaf and Ted Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) created the pamphlet, This Is Ann, about a mosquito spreading malaria to men who failed to take precautions.
On April 22, 1995, Leaf was inducted into the University of Maryland Alumni Hall of Fame. Some of his books have been brought back into print in recent years.