Robert Munsch - beloved Canadian author's last interview
One of Canada's most beloved storytellers gave what may be his last ever interview to the press in 2021.
Children's author Robert Munsch spoke with CBC Radio in October 2021 and revealed some shocking news that has devastated many fans. Join us for a look at the life of Robert Munsch and a look at some of the highlights from his final interview.
Canada's favourite storyteller Robert Munsch was actually born and raised in the United States. Munsch was born on June 11, 1945, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He grew up in a very large family with nine children, and according to his website, 'robertmunsch.com,' he did terribly in school.
Munsch wrote, "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."
Robert says that he was a loner in high school and since academics weren't his forte (despite continually writing short stories and poems since he was a child), he decided to study to become a Catholic priest.
After studying for seven years to be a Jesuit priest, Munsch earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, a Master of Arts degree in anthropology, and the knowledge that he was not cut out to be a priest.
However, while studying with the Jesuits, Munsch also worked at an orphanage, and it was there that he discovered he loved to work with kids. Once he finished his studies and knew that he wasn't "priest material," Robert Munsch decided to try working at a daycare, which is where he would eventually find his true calling in life.
While working at a daycare in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, Robert met his future wife. However, soon the daycare the couple was working at ran out of funding, so Robert and his wife decided to emigrate to Canada to look for work in 1975. Munsch ended up working at the University of Guelph preschool, and his superiors soon noticed his talent for making up extraordinary stories to entertain the kids.
Photo: screenshot CTV News, YouTube
According to Robert Munsch's website, he became a published author thanks to his bosses at that preschool in Guelph. In fact, Munsch's boss gave him two months off to write children's stories to see if he could become a published author.
Image: Screenshot CTV News
Munsch's famous book 'Mud Puddle' was picked up by a publisher, and although sales were slow initially, Robert Munsch quickly became a sensation in the world of children's books.
The main reason that Munsch books have been such a hit with kids is that he has stated he doesn't write books with educational messages for parents to read to their children - he writes books that kids want to read!
According to CBC Radio, Munsch said, "My stories have no adult morals. They're not to improve children. They're just for kids to like." However, Munch's sense of humour is very spot-on for kids and grown-ups, and that combined with his legendary live story-telling skills has made him a world-famous children's author.
Photo: screenshot from "Good Families Don't" on YouTube
One of Munsch's most iconic books, 'Love You Forever' has sold 6.97 million copies in paperback and 1.049 million hardcover copies.
The book has earned the praise of megastars such as Oprah Winfrey, and 'Love You Forever' was even snuck into an episode of 'Friends.'
'The Paper Bag Princess' has also seen tremendous success and was highly revolutionary for the time as it was published in 1980.
A feminist story about a princess that rescues a prince and then they DON'T get married in the end has remained hugely popular over the years and has sold over 7 million copies.
Robert Munsch is most likely hugely successful as well because of the huge variety of children and families he has featured in his books. All kids love to read books about kids that look like themselves.
Children of all different cultural backgrounds are featured, as well as children with disabilities. The author has also written books featuring First Nations children illustrated by an Indigenous illustrator.
Since publishing his first book more than 40 years ago, Robert Munsch has written and published more than 100 children's books which have been translated into twenty different languages and sold over 80 million copies in North America.
Robert Munsch is now 76 years old, and in 2021, he has two books coming out, 'I Can Fix It!' and 'Think Big!'
Using the books as an excuse, Robert Munsch contacted CBC's radio programme 'The Next Chapter.' He told them he would like to give an interview, because according to CBC, " He's decided to share some difficult news that he hasn't talked about publicly before."
In the interview on CBC Radio Munsch had with Shelagh Rogers earlier this fall, the author revealed that he had been diagnosed with a debilitating health condition. "I have ongoing dementia I can't drive, I can't ride a bicycle, I can't write. So it's been really whittling away on who I thought I was. I kind of thought I would like to do this interview as a last hurrah."
Robert Munsch, unfortunately, is accustomed to dealing with health issues. The author has spoken publicly about his addiction issues as well as his obsessive-compulsive and bipolar disorders.
He was forced to retire after suffering a stroke in 2008, which significantly affected his memory. However, he continued to release two books each year, which he had written before the stroke.
However, this most recent diagnosis of dementia has been a harder pill for fans to swallow - nobody wants to see their childhood icon lose his mental faculties. However, for Robert Munsch, the diagnosis of dementia brought a certain relief because he knew that something just wasn't right
Despite the relief that the initial diagnosis brought, Munsch expressed his worries about his future in his interview with CBC Radio. "I worry about what I'll be in a year. Will I be a turnip in a bed in a year?" The author also said of dementia, "Now, if I were God in charge of the world, I would make it illegal."
Robert Munsch was well known for making unexpected visits to schools and reading his works to children's classes. Children have always been his primary motivator, so even when he was having memory issues following his stroke, Munsch could still enjoy these kinds of visits.
Now with his dementia, it is no longer possible. However, the author says that even when he forgets other important information, his stories remain. Munsch told CBC, "My stories, strangely enough, are all there. The stories will be the last thing to go, I think."
Robert Munsch may have given his last ever interview to CBC Radio; however, his legacy will forever live on through his amazing books.
During his final interview, the author took the chance to send out one last message to the public: "Ordinary people fight a lot and still get along together. Adults and kids fight a lot and still get along together. Kids, love your parents and parents, love your kids. It's a complicated world and try to make the best of it."
Photo: screenshot reading of "Love You Forever" YouTube