Saturday, May 29, 2010

Munro Leaf

I was browsing in a high-end plant nursery a few days ago, and what did I see in between the books on container gardening and succulents for every occasion? A newly reissued series of books by Munro Leaf.

Three books with didactic titles like How to Speak Politely and How to Behave and Why
What they have to do with gardening, I still don't know, but they reminded me of a partially written post, so here it is at last.

Red book cover with black lettering reading Let's Do BetterLike many a baby boomer, I grew up reading The Story of Ferdinand (you know, the story about the bull who wouldn't fight, but wanted to smell flowers instead), but never knew who its author was until one day I was at an estate sale and came across an old red hardcover book called Let's Do Better by someone named Munro Leaf.

When I got the book home, I looked up the author and found out about the Ferdinand connection and a lot more about Leaf.

Published by Lippincott in 1945, Let's Do Better has Dr. Seuss-like lettering on the cover, and uses almost-stick-figure illustrations to tell the story of how people began to cooperate and create civilization.

Unfortunately, these groups of people would go to war with each other over resources. The story then describes people who are Thinkers, who affect us all by their thoughts and actions.

Two pages from Let's Do Better, showing Makers and Doers
"These Thinkers can be divided into three different kinds and two of the three kinds can be good for us all. The third kind is always getting us into trouble." Leaders and Makers and Doers are the two good ones, while the bad one is Selfish Cheaters. "They are the people who mess things up, who try to push and pull the people of the world around while they are thinking only of themselves. Unfortunately, they live in every country."

When Selfish Cheaters are smart, they sometimes become Leaders, and then we're all in trouble, and wars happen. "If the people of every country will be very careful about who their leaders are, and if we all see to it that the Selfish Cheaters never become powerful, then we can live together in a peaceful world."

Two pages from Let's Do Better
"If we want this world to be a better place, we are the ones who can make it so."

Many considered Leaf to be a pacifist because of Ferdinand, and I can only assume Let's Do Better was written as a commentary on leaders like Hitler and Mussolini. Leaf spent the war years writing propaganda (along with Dr. Seuss), so perhaps he felt he had something to prove. But reading the book now has a different feeling -- as if it's a more radical critique of current and recent leaders.

1 comment:

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

Interesting! My grandson loves Ferdinand, and like Ferdinand he loves flowers. He also loves the pre-bullfight scene from Carmen; we turn it off before blood is drawn. At 3, he doesn't know what lies beyond; it's just about a lively scene and great music. Looks like Ferdinand's message may be more subtle than the "How to" books, but it's hilarious that they are carried at a nursery just because the author's name is Leaf.