The Bull Who Just Liked To Smell Flowers

Many children know The Story of Ferdinand, the bull who wouldn’t fight when placed in the bull-fighting ring.  This year marks the 78th anniversary of the publication of this timeless children’s classic.  But did you know that the author of this book was a Maryland alumnus?

(Click on the cover above to watch Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert reading Ferdinand to a group of young children in Montclair, NJ!)

Leaf, now a member of Maryland’s Alumni Hall of Fame, graduated with a B.A. in 1927. Ferdinand was a controversial book when it was published, as some critics believed that it was a thinly veiled negative commentary on international aggression.  Leaf denied this, stating in a 1939 Washington Times Herald article that the book was only ever intended for children, adding: “I don’t even think he was a pacifist.  He just showed plain horse sense–or maybe I should say ‘bull-sense’…He didn’t want to fight because he didn’t see any good reason for it.”

Leaf wasn’t an author while at Maryland–he played lacrosse, was a captain in the R.O.T.C., and was senior class treasurer.  He went on to write many other children’s books, and his career earned him a distinguished service award from Maryland’s Board of Regents in 1960.  He passed away in 1976.