I grew up in a bookish home. The rooms were (and still are) full of my mother’s bookshelves. So naturally, my siblings and I had our own bookshelf in our room. My mother would read to us every day, whenever we asked her to, but especially before bed every night. Even before I could read myself, I flipped through books looking at the pictures while reciting to myself the story as I remembered it from my mother’s telling.
Many of the books on our bookshelf were by Robert Munsch. I do not know if you could have grown up in the early 2000s without reading one of his books. As an extremely influential Canadian author, he has published over fifty children’s books. He recently announced that he has dementia, which makes looking back on my time with his books all the more poignant. His stories coloured my childhood in a tint of fondness, and they have similarly impacted others of my generation. Student Tess Casher remembers her mom reading Munsch books to her as bedtime stories as well and, while they didn’t have an obvious impact on her life at the time, she is now an English major and wonders if “something wonderful happened along the way.”
Reading Munsch as a kid inspired student Emmalyn Sheehan to tell stories; “spinning fantastical tales to younger children is something [she] still enjoys to this day.” She particularly loves the children’s reactions to these tales, stating that they were “something that always filled [her] with joy.” This is a trait she shares with Munsch, whose stories are meant to engage children, allow them to react, and encourage them to make noise.
For Sheehan, Munsch’s most popular book, Love You Forever, is “tied to a lot of sadness.” She told me how her mother used to read it to two of her cousins, one of whom passed away when she was young. Despite the tragic connection, she feels that reading the book “[brings her] closer to [her] cousin every time.”
Munsch himself is a wonderful person. Ellen Pickle, owner of Tidewater Books, once put on a book signing with Robert Munsch at the Frye Festival in Moncton. She said that about 800 books were sold that day and that “it was amazing how much time [Munsch spent] talking to every kid individually.” Despite his arthritis, he signed every single book. Pickle claimed that “he was one of the most generous authors [she had] ever seen.”
There is no question that Robert Munsch’s books are revolutionary in the world of children’s fiction. Pickle believes that they are so beloved because “he taps into the child in all of us. He understands how children think.” His stories are not meant to have a moral, they are simply meant for children to enjoy. He has a way of making kids feel like they are “‘in’ on the joke,” as Casher put it. The importance of his books is in their “magical way of giving [the] children protagonists agency and influence in a story where they are very much situated in the adult world,” Casher continued. “[Munsch’s] stories write wonder into the most mundane … experiences.”
I am sure that his entertaining and original stories gathered from years of working with and listening to kids will live on for many more generations; Munsch has all the qualities of an immortal storyteller.