Why Robert Munsch?

*Robert Munsch’s books are familiar to many students.

*His books are entertaining and make students laugh.

*The characters and settings are from across Canada.

*You will be surprised by the diversity!

It is still early in the school year, and your class is still forming as a community. You want students to feel excited by your read-aloud choices, and if your students are reading independently, these books are accessible to many readers. They are also widely available as recordings. I am old enough to have them on cassette and a CD, but some are available from the publishers’ websites. You may think Munsch is for the youngest students only, but I encourage you to try some of these ideas for students up to grade 6!

K-2: Listening and Reflecting on the Story and Illustrations

Young children identify with the ridiculous antics of the characters in Robert Munsch’s books. Mortimer will not be quiet at bedtime. Jule Ann has a mud puddle jump on her in Mud Puddle. Kristen’s parents bring home animals instead of her new human sibling in Alligator Baby. Tina will not change her socks in Smelly Socks. And the classic, Love you Forever, is about a boy who is deeply loved even though he misbehaves. The list goes on!

The stories have much to offer regarding humour, patterns, and analysing human behaviour. With young students, you can also look at the different illustrators. The books mentioned above were illustrated by Michael Martchenko, Sami Suomalainen, and Sheila McGraw. Each has its own unique style. Use them as an inspiration to create your own illustrations.  How would you draw a mud puddle jumping on a kid?  You could also use many different Robert Munsch books to discuss rules and responsibilities since his characters have a habit of showing how not to behave.

Studying Robert Munsch’s books with a young audience can lead to creating a class book. I also recommend writing to Robert Munsch. In the past, I have always received a kind letter and story featuring students’ names from my class.

Grade 3-6: Recording Read Alouds and Critical Analysis

Once you have modeled a great read-aloud with your students, you could ask them to record their read-aloud using a Robert Munsch book. If the material is familiar, they will not be as intimidated to make a video of themselves. You can watch recordings of Robert Munsch’s storytelling and see how he emphasizes sound effects and uses pauses and volume to be highly entertaining and expressive. If you have a reading buddy class, your students could prepare a read-aloud to pass a love of reading to younger students. This activity could allow you to cover drama, media literacy, reading, and oral communication expectations.

If you dug deeper behind some of the stories, you would see that Robert Munsch’s sense of compassion comes through. Sometimes you have to infer the details from the illustrations. In some cases, you can listen to Robert Munsch giving interviews about the motivation for a story. Here are a few examples with a brief description of the story behind the story.

Smelly Socks:  This story takes place at K’atl’odeeche First Nation. K’atl’odeeche is not named in the story itself, but it is in the dedication. The illustrations are based on photographs of the area. There are details to note in the story to discuss life at this First Nation in the 1980s. Tina’s family had no car. There was only one store. The bridge to town (Hay River) was too far to walk. Many Canadians have never visited a First Nation and are not aware of the difficulties some First Nations face. This story could launch your class into an inquiry about life on First Nations.

The current website for K’atl’odeeche First Nation details its history and cultural celebrations.

From Far Away:  Saoussan wrote to Robert Munsch in grade two. She had been in Canada for about 18 months. He made up this story based on some of her experiences. I like to read it close to Halloween because it can help students new to school in Canada prepare for the occasion. I also find it helps students think critically about what it is like for someone who does not know the dominant language at school. It also can be a starting point for thinking about people’s experiences with war. Read this story with an awareness of whether or not the content could be disturbing to your students.

Where is Gah-Ning?: Set in Northern Ontario, this story has colourful illustrations by Hélène Desputeaux. Gah-Ning is a girl who is inventive and determined, although not very safe in her travel choices. You will relate to this character if you have ever lived in a time or place where not much was going on! Older students can compare life in their area to the small town of Hearst. The child in this story became Robert Munsch’s pen pal for decades. This story could inspire your class to begin a pen pal program with a faraway school. There are websites to help you find a match. 

I encourage you to do some further reading, viewing, and listening about Robert Munsch. He is 77 years old while I’m writing this blog and is dealing with dementia. He has stopped making public appearances. He has been open about his struggles with mental illness. 

I have a personal story about Robert Munsch. In 1995 I was teaching grade 2, and my class wrote letters to try and win a Robert Munsch visit. We mailed our good copies to the Quaker Oats Company and hoped for the best. Alas, we did not win. I still had the rough copies. They were a little marked up, but I packed them into an envelope and sent them off to Bob, hoping for a reply. I got more than I bargained for! He sent a fun story and a poster as usual, but he also included a card saying:

 “Dear Miss McClelland, I like it better if you don’t correct the kids spelling. Bob Munsch” 

Lesson learned! If you are sending rough copies that have editing marks to anyone – explain, explain, explain!

Enjoy your Robert Munsch adventures,


P.S. If you want more information about where some of Munsch’s characters are now, try this MacLean’s article. 

Scholastic has information about Munsch, including a mailing address at this website.

Munsch has his own website where you can send an email or learn more about him.


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