The Official Website of Robert Munsch

All About Robert Munsch

This story is about Robert Munsch
from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Photo of Robert Munsch

I was born on June 11, 1945 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I grew up in a family of 9 kids. At least, that is where I lived when I was young. My mother says I never grew up and still act like I was 6 years old. She may be right, but I figure that I act like a very mature 6 year old.

When I was 12 my older brother kicked me in the mouth the day after I got my braces off. He broke off some of my front teeth and knocked me out. My dad says I have been acting strange ever since. My mom says I always acted strange.

I almost flunked first grade and also the second, third, fourth, and fifth; but my younger brother was in the grade behind me, and he was a brain and nobody wanted to have me be in the same grade as him, so they kept passing me. I never learned how to spell, graduated from eighth grade counting on my fingers to do simple addition, and in general was not a resounding academic success.

I did, however, all through elementary school, write poetry. Funny poems, silly poems, all sorts of poems. Nobody thought that was very important, including me. When I went to high school, I didn’t get along with anybody, read lots of books and decided to be a Catholic Priest.

I studied for 7 years to be a Jesuit priest, only to find that I was lousy priest material. [While I was studying with the Jesuits, I got an undergraduate degree in History and a Master's degree in Anthropology. A Master's degree in Anthropology isn't worth much, but that's what they give you when you flunk your orals for your Ph. D.]

While I was studying to be a Jesuit priest, I worked part-time at an orphanage to escape from deadly classes in philosophy. So I knew I liked working with kids; and when I left the Jesuits I decided to work in daycare for a year till I figured out what I wanted to do; and what I figured out I wanted to do was: work in daycare.

After I had been in daycare for awhile I decided to learn something about what I was supposed to be doing, so I went back to school for a year at the Elliot Pearson School of Child Studies at Tufts University in Medford, Mass. It was there that I made up my first story while on a student teaching placement at the Wellsley College Child Studies Preschool. I did it for a circle time. I did not know that it was going to be a book called “Mortimer”. It took it 12 years to get to be a book.

Back in daycare I discovered that I could get the kids to shut up during nap time by telling them stories. For ten years I did this without thinking I had any special skill. After all, while I made the best stories in the daycare centre, most of the other teachers made better play doh. I eventually got a long list of stories I told, but I never wrote them down.

Once when my wife [I met her over a diaper at Bromley Heath Infant Daycare in Jamaica Plain, Mass] and I were both out of work because a daycare lost its’ funding, we decided to try to look for work in Canada. We both ended up at a lab preschool at the University of Guelph in Guelph, Ontario. The wife of my boss happened to be a CHILDREN’S LIBRARIAN and she heard me telling stories.

She told me to publish and I didn’t listen, she told my boss to make me publish and my boss told me to publish and I listened. In fact, he gave me two months off to do it. So I had a great two months off and on the last day, I wrote down 10 stories and sent them off to 10 different publishers. Nine said, “No” and one said, “Yes” to a story called ‘Mud Puddle’.

So I became a writer. Mud Puddle sold 3000 copies the first year.

Oh WoW!

But Annick press kept putting out my books and they slowly sold better and better. [Mud Puddle had its' best year 10 years after it was published!]. Finally I quit my job at the University and started just writing and telling stories. About then I became a Canadian citizen and lost my American citizenship. It was nice to have only one country again.

I kept using real kids as characters in my books even though I was not working in daycare or preschool anymore. The first kid I make up the story for sort of ‘owns’ the story and gets to be the kid in the book – if the story ever gets to be a book. My publisher did not like this because it meant that I changed characters for each book.

The storytelling sometimes got very big once I was discovered by children’s festivals in Canada and then by entertainment promoters. Sometimes I was telling stories to 3,000 kids at once – and that is a lot different than a daycare nap time. But I still kept doing schools and daycares because I liked doing them.

I also started to travel all over Canada and stay with families while telling stories. I first started staying with families because I did not have money for a hotel, but I soon found out that families were a great place to look for stories when a book called ‘Moira’s Birthday’ grew out of staying with Moira’s family in Hay River, NWT.

Along the way I became Canada¹s best selling author, but I was not selling much in the USA. Then LOVE YOU FOREVER came out as a Canadian book in 1986. I had written it as a memorial for two stillborn babies we had in 1979 and 1980. The story actually started out as a song.

I really wanted this story to be a book and I had to change publishers since my regular publisher did not want to do it. I was really worried that it would not sell. It sold 30,000 in 1986 and was the bestselling kid’s book in Canada that year, 70,000 in 1987 and was the bestselling Canadian kids book that year too. It sold 1,000,000 in 1988 . It was the bestselling Canadian kid’s book that year too. The strange thing was that it was also the bestselling kid’s book in the USA, only nobody knew it, including me. It never occurred to me that it could be an invisible bestseller.

Then, in 1994, the ‘New York Times’ did an update of their list of bestselling children¹s books that they had last done in 1978. They did not update the list often since it was very stable. GOODNIGHT MOON had been #1 since forever! They found LOVE YOU FOREVER at the top of the list with 8,000,000 sold. {It¹s at 18,000,000 as of 1999} This was very strange as they had never reviewed it, did not know it existed, and it was a Canadian (foreign) title that did not even have a US publisher or distributor. Somebody from the Times called me up and wanted to know, “Who are You?”.

So I have kept on doing about 2 books a year and now I have 54 books published. My latest one is PUT ME IN A BOOK.

And here are some STRANGE things about me:

1. I visit schools and daycares for free and usually I do not tell them that I am coming. Like on a book tour in California in October, 1997; I looked at a map and figured out that I was going to be near a school that had written me. (I have a really good secretary who keeps track of these things) I decided to drop in. I took along the letter the class had written and showed it to the school secretary. I said, “Look, Ms. Clebanoff in grade 2 asked me to visit.”

I showed the letter to the secretary because one of the jobs of secretaries is to keep weird people out of school and I wanted her to know that I was not a weird person. The secretary decided I was not weird and wanted to call Ms. Clebanoff and tell her that I was coming, but I convinced her to let me just go and knock on the door.

So I went and knocked on the door of Ms. Clebanoff¹s grade 2 and said, “Hi! I’m Bob Munsch. Remember you asked me to come and visit when you wrote me last year?”

Mrs. Clebanoff just stood there and didn’t say anything so I tried again.

I said, “Hi! My name is Bob Munsch and I am from Canada and your class wrote me a letter and asked me to come and visit and I was driving by on the Ventura Freeway and I came by for a visit and do you want me to tell some stories to your class or should I go back to the Ventura Freeway and stop bothering you?”

Mrs. Clebanoff said, “Canada? Bob Munsch??? Stories????”; And then she finally figured it out and yelled, “Kids, drop everything, we have a visitor!”

Then a really neat thing happened. The principal came running in the door and said; “I don¹t believe this! Mr. Munsch, you have to visit the kindergarten. They have just finished a big letter that they started yesterday. It is to you! Why don’t you go and pick it up and it will save them stamps?” So I went to the kindergarten and told stories and got my letter. The kids thought it was very nice of me to come down from Canada to pick up their letter.

2. I still like to stay with families. When I was a prize for Scholastic USA book clubs they thought I would fly to the winning school and tell stories for an hour. Instead I called up the winning teacher and told her to choose 2 kids by lottery and I would stay with their families. And that is how I came to stay with Brittany Edwards in Georgetown, South Carolina and that is how this conversation took place:

BRITTANY: My Great-Grandfather broke both his arms.
BOB:  Both!
BRITTANY: Yes. He fell out of the back of a truck while he was trying to shoot a deer.
BOB: Is he OK now?
BRITTANY: Yes, he got tired of the casts and he had my cousin come over and saw them off so he could go hunting.
BOB: Do you think that was a good idea?
BRITTANY: Yes. They just put the casts on him cause he was old.
BOB: So how old is he?
BRITTANY: 101

And that led to me telling a story called “Brittany’s Granddad” which will be a book someday. i would NEVER have thought of a story about a kid visiting her 101 year old grandad.  And there was Julia Muckpah who asked me to visit. She lived in Arviat, Nunavut; and the visit turned onto a book called A PROMISE IS A PROMISE that I wrote with another Inuit from Rankin Inlet. That is the trip where I learned to like raw frozen caribou, which would not have happened at a hotel.

In 1999 I stayed with a family in Sidney, British Columbia. They live out in the middle of the coastal rain forest and the kids happily dragged me through several kilometres of forest and swamp, which they felt was their back yard. Their real back yard was fenced and had 4 large dogs whose job was to eat any mountain lions who happened to jump the fence. We saw no mountain lions on our walk, and I don¹t know if any mountain lions saw us. The whole purpose of the expedition was to climb “Mt. Everest” . “Mt. Everest” turned out to be a small rock knob. When we climbed it, there in clear view, was the fenced back yard of their house. I told Jon, age 7, that it seemed there was a shorter way to Mt. Everest. He said, “It’s not Mt. Everest if you come that way”. I think he has hit on some sort of universal truth and here it is ——-> JON’S RULE: Where you are depends on how you get there. Which is the story of my life and yours too.

3. I sometimes make up stories on air planes. Once I sat near a kid named Timena who had a whole backpack full of DOLLS. I made up a story and then I introduced myself to her mother and asked if I could tell the story. The mom said it was OK so I told Timena the story. Now the story is going to be my next book. We are still arguing about its’ title. It might be TIMENA’S DOLLS or TOY ATTACK or it might be something else. STAY TUNED. I had trouble finding Timena to tell her about the book. Finally my editor found her on the internet. She had moved to Europe.

NOTE TO PARENTS

I am a storyteller. I write books for kids, I talk to kids, and I listen to kids.

But that is not all that I am. Several years ago I was diagnosed as obsessive-compulsive and manic-depressive. Those challenges have led me to make some big mistakes.

I have worked hard to overcome my problems, and I have done my best. I have attended twelve-step recovery meetings for more than 25 years.

My mental health and addiction problems are not a secret to my friends and family. They have been a big support to me over the years, and I would not have been able to do this without their love and understanding.

I hope that others will also understand. I hope that everyone will talk to their kids honestly, listen to them, and help them do their best with their own challenges.