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Picture Books Author of the Month
Robert Munsch
Robert Munsch
11 June 1945 -- ???

Robert Norman Munsch was born on June 11, 1945 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was the fourth of nine children. Speaking of the consequences of his position in the birth order, Munsch once said, "I was in the middle; a very bad position as it meant I attacked by both the younger coalition and the older coalition." [2]

Munsch did not do extremely well in elementary school. "I 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." [3] One thing that he did do well during elementary school was write poems -- funny poems, silly poems, all sorts of poems.

Munsch was always viewed as being a bit strange by his family. When he was 12 years old, his older brother kicked him in the mouth the day after he got his braces off. He broke some of Munsch's front teeth and knocked him out. "My dad says I have been acting strange ever since. My mom says I always acted strange." [3]

It was during his high school years that Munsch decided that he wanted to become a Catholic priest. At the time, he was attending a Catholic high school. He didn't get along with anyone. He read a lot of books.

After finishing high school, he began his studies to become a priest. "I studied for seven years to be a Jesuit priest and finally gave that up. While I was studying with the Jesuits, I worked part-time at an orphanage to escape from deadly classes in philosophy." [2] Munsch was attacked by a stranger while he was working at the orphanage, and it was then that he began to lose his faith. He resigned from the priesthood after seven years of study.

During that same time, Munsch received a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from Fordham University in Bronx, New York. He also received a Master's Degree in anthropology from Boston University in 1971.

After his experience of working in a daycare, Munsch realized he really enjoyed working with children. He decided that that would be his next career path. In 1971, he went back to school at the Elliot Pearson School of Child Studies at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. He received a Master's Degree in education from the school the following year.

It was while working on his second Master's degree that Munsch made up his first story. At the time he was on a student teaching placement at the Wellesley college Child Studies Preschool. He used the story for a "Circle Time." That book was published twelve years later under the title Mortimer.

"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 center, most of the other teachers made better Play-Doh. I eventually got a long list of stories I told, but never wrote them down." [2]

On January 22, 1973, Munsch married his wife Ann Beeler. The two had met over a diaper at Bromley Health Infant Daycare in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. The couple have three children: Julie, Andrew, and Tyya.

After marrying, the Munsch's left in search of a brighter future and ended up in Coos Bats, a small fishing community on the west coast of Oregon. It was here that Munsch and his wife ran a daycare center, Bay Area Childcare, in the back room of a church. He also used his experiences at the center to hone his skills as a storyteller.

The center lost its funding in 1976. Munsch and his wife decided to try and look for work in Canada. They both ended up working at the Family Studies Laboratory Preschool at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. He also took a position at the University in 1980 as an assistant professor who lectured undergraduate students in early childhood care.

"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 two great months off and on the last day, I wrote down ten stories and sent them off to ten different publishers. Nine said 'No,' and one [Annick Press] said 'Yes" to a story called Mud Puddle. [3]

It was 1980 when Mud Puddle was published. It sold 3000 copies in the first year, and Annick Press signed up for a number of Munsch's books. His next book, called The Paperbag Princess, also sold really well. In 1984, Munsch gave up his position at the university to start writing and telling stories full-time.

In 1985, Munsch lost his American citizenship when he became a Canadian citizen.

Storytelling went to a new level for Munsch once he was discovered by a number of children's festivals in Canada and then by entertainment promoters. He would sometimes tell stories to 3,000 kids at once in concert halls, which is a bit larger than the groups he entertained for a daycare nap time.

Munsch also continued to do schools and day cares. His reason for doing this was that he enjoyed doing them. He started traveling all over Canada and staying with families. He first stayed with families because he did not have the money for a hotel, but he soon learned that families were a great place to look for stories.

While on tour, Munsch became Canada's best-selling author, but he was not doing incredibly well in the American market. That changed when Love You Forever was published. The book, which was first published in Canada in 1986, was written as a memorial for two stillborn babies he and his wife had had in 1979 and 1980. The story had 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 worried that it would not sell. It was the best-selling Canadian children's book from 1986 - 1988, selling one million copies in 1988 alone. The strange thing was that it was also the best-selling children's book in the United States, but nobody new it, including me." [3]

"The Canadian publisher had, at the time, no salespeople in the USA. Love You Forever did not get reviewed in any US newspapers and received no publicity in the United States. It became the best-selling picture book in the United States with no publicity at all." [3]

Munsch new that the book was selling well in the United States, but he did not realize to what extent until 1994 did an update of their best-selling children's books. The last update of the list had been done in 1978 because the list tended to be very stable. Goodnight Moon by Frank Asch had been #1 since 1948. The new list had Love You Forever at the top of the list with 8,000,000 sold. As of 1999, that number had increased to 18,000,000.

Today, Munsch makes over 200 personal appearances around North America every year,many of which are surprise visits, and receives 50 to 100 e-mails a day. He treads every single letter.

On average Munsch writes about two books a year. To date, he has 35 books published and over 100 stories waiting to be published. He usually spends up to three years telling stories to audiences before he finally submits them to a publisher.

Munsch likes to capture the attention of his young audiences and challenges convention with words such as "underwear" and "pee" and plots that reverse expectations.

Munsch's hobbies are cycling and geology. He also enjoys listening to Irish music, rap, and Gregorian chant. He lives with his family in Guelph, Ontario, Canada.

Information for this biography was taken from:
1) "Life and Times of Robert Munsch", Canada's Biography Series; http://www.tv.cbc/lifeandtimes/bio2000/munsch.htm.
2) "Munsch, Robert N.", Education Paperback Association http://www.edupaperback.org/authorbios/Munsch_RobertN.html.
3) The Official Robert Munsch Website; http://www.robertmunsch.com.
4) Pendergast, Sara and Tom Pendergast (eds.). St. James Guide to Children's Writers; St. James Press: Detroit, Mich., 1999.
5) "Robert Munsch," Authors Online; http://teacher.scholastic.com/authorsandbooks/munsch/bio.htm.

E-Munsch Alligator Baby (1997) -- A little girls takes matters into her own hands after her brother is accidentally born in a zoo and her parents repeatedly bring home the wrong baby.

E-Munsch Andrew's Loose Tooth (1998) -- Andrew's tooth is loose and no one can help him remove it ... not even the tooth fairy.

E-Munsch Angela's Airplane (1988) -- While looking for her lost father at the airport, Angela ends up in the front of the plane. She decides to push just one button, and then another ... and another ...

E-Munsch The Boy in the Drawer (1988) -- Shelley finds a boy in her drawer who causes a lot of trouble.

E-Munsch The Dark (1984) -- Jule Ann outsmarts the dark, a creature that grows huge by eating shadows, blocking out the light of day.

E-Munsch The Fire Station (1991) -- While two kids are exploring a fire truck, an alarm goes off&emdash;and away go Michael and Sheila to the rescue!

E-Munsch Get Out of Bed! (1998) -- Amy's mother, father, brother, and school principal use very unusual measures to try to get the sleepy girl out of bed.

E-MUN I Have to Go! (1987) -- Join a little boy who really has to go to the bathroom.

E-Munsch Love You Forever (1987) -- This is the story of how that little boy goes through the stages of childhood and becomes a man.

E-Munsch Millicent the Wind (1984) -- Millicent lives on the mountain with no friends except for the wind.

E-Munsch Moira's Birthday (1992) -- Moira invites everyone from grades 1 to 6 to her party, but her parents don't know!

E-Munsch Mortimer (1985) -- The story of a little boy who won't go to sleep at night and who drives his family crazy with his rowdiness

E-Munsch/E-P-MUN The Paper Bag Princess (1980) -- The Princess Elizabeth is slated to marry Prince Ronald when a dragon attacks the castle and kidnaps Ronald.

E-Munsch Pigs (1985) -- Megan is told to feed the pigs, but not to open the gate. She does of course, and the results are hilarious.

E-MUN A Promise Is a Promise (1988) -- When Allashua disobeys her parents and goes fishing on the sea ice, she has to use her wits to escape and to further trick the Qallupilluit when she promises to bring her brothers and sisters back to them.

E-Munsch Something Good (1990) -- While at the supermarket, Tyya, Andrew, and Julie want to put "something good" into their shopping cart.

E-Munsch Stephanie's Ponytail (1996) -- Stephanie, who is determined to strike a blow for nonconformity, manages to arrive at school every day with a hairdo more outrageous than the day before.

E-MUN Thomas' Snowsuit (1987) -- Thomas' mother, teacher, and principal have a hard time trying to convince him to wear his snowsuit.

E-Munsch Wait and See (1993) -- Olivia confidently warns her parents that her birthday wish will come true, and when snow does begin to fall in the middle of summer, piling up against the door, her parents rush to whip up another cake.

E-Munsch Where Is Gah- Ning? (1994) -- Gah-Ning insists on going to Kapuskasing any way she can--by bus, bicycle, or balloon--and her father is equally determined to stop her, afraid the Oriental tyke will catch the city's shopping fever.

"Life and Times" Canada's Biography Series (http://www.tv.cbc.ca/lifeandtimes/bio2000/munsch.htm) -- This site provides a brief biography of the popular children's author.

"Munsch, Robert N." Educational Paperback Association (http://www.paperback.org/authorbios/hutchins.html) -- This site gives a biography written by the author as well as a list of his works and citations for resources to learn more about Robert Munsch and his books.

The Official Robert Munsch Website (http://www.robertmunsch.com) -- This is the official website for the popular chidlren's writer. It includes activities and information relating to the author and his works. 

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