One Sunday afternoon in 1935, Leaf decided to write a children's story so that his close friend Robert Lawson (a relatively unknown illustrator) could show his talents. In less than one hour, Leaf composed the beloved 800-word story as it stands today, nearly 60 years later.
When published by Viking in 1936 as The Story of Ferdinand, the book sparked controversy. With the Spanish Civil War waging, political critics charged it was a satirical attack on aggression. In Germany, Hitler order the book burned while fellow dictator Stalin granted it privileged status as the only non-communist children's book allowed in Poland. And India's spiritual leader Ghandi called it his favorite book. In spite of the notoriety, the nation embraced the peaceable bull.
That same year, Leaf published his second most popular book,Manners
Can Be Fun, illustrated with the notorious "watchbird" stick figures
who observe the behavior of boys and girls. Since Leaf's death in 1976
at age 71, Ferdinand continues to charm children worldwide as the simple
story is retold in more than 60 language translations.