Wednesday 9 May 2012

Art Imitates Life

Robert Munsch, born and raised in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, worked in a daycare for years.  In the mid-seventies he moved to Canada where he found a job at the University of Guelph.  His boss's wife read one of his stories and suggested that he seek a publisher, but he declined.  Then his boss made the suggestion, giving him two months off to devote to writing.  Mr. Munsch explained that he relaxed for two months but on the last day, he mailed out ten manuscripts:  nine were rejected, but one was accepted, Mud Puddle, about an Oregon girl that he met on a nursery school playground who was playing in a giant mud puddle.

Robert Munsch says "it takes at least 200 tellings for a story to get really get good".  The children's author finds much of his material in real life when he tells his stories at schools, libraries and daycares. Many of his characters really do exist.  For instance, Robert wrote Love You Forever after his wife suffered two stillborn births in 1979 and 1980.  Happily, the Munsch's successfully adopted three healthy children in subsequent years.  Ribbon Rescue is based on a girl wearing a dress with ribbons who attended one of his story-telling sessions.  Lighthouse is about two children he met in Pontiac, Michigan.  Boo! is about a little boy named Lance who loved Halloween whom the author met at Lloyd George Public School, right in front of the Hamilton steel mills.  More Pies! is a story he used to tell about a boy named Samuel at lunch time; however, he did not actually know a Samuel.  So he waited for a fan mail letter, amongst the 10,000 a year he received, from a Samuel.  Soon he had his Samuel, and he added a little brother just like Samuel's real life brother.  Andrew's Loose Tooth, is based on both a boy from Fort Qu'Appelle, Saskatchewan who was missing his front teeth, and Mr. Munsch's son, Andrew.  Stephanie's Ponytail is based on a girl with a ponytail sticking right out of the top of her head who attended one of the author's story-tellings.  While helping his friends host a birthday party for their daughter Kirsten whose mother was expecting a baby, Robert got the idea for the story Baby Alligator about a Mommy who goes to the zoo rather than the hospital and comes home with an alligator.  The inspiration for The Sandcastle Contest was twofold:  first, Robert's daughter Tyya loved to build sancastles; secondly, the Munsch's neighbours, the Luttman's, used to pack up everything but the kitchen sink and tie it to the top of their camper every summer when they went on vacation.  Thomas' Snowsuit was based on a Halifax classroom full of students garbed in snowsuits after Robert had told them every story he knew and had to come up with a new one off the top of his head.  Too Much Stuff is based on a girl named Temina whom the author met on a plane ride who unpacked her suitcase full of dolls; the book was almost called Temina's Dolls, but the publisher didn't think that boys would read such a title.  Madison from Orangeville was Robert's inspiration for Look at Me about a girl with a flower painted on her face. 

Robert Munsch has found the secret to entertaining stories:  humour is one of the ingredients; a good plot is another; but also genuineness.  He knows that real people make real stories.  To date he has published about 50 stories and written many more.  And it all started with a mud puddle.

Image of Robert Musnch and his characters courtesy

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