Tuesday, May 18, 2010

In Defense of Robert Munsch

I am a bit of a book addict. I am happy to admit it; I think there are far worse things I could be. One of the more serious aspects of the addiction is the need to fill my house, nearly every corner of it, with children's books. I think it stems from the statement made by a literacy professor back when I was doing my B.Ed., that "You must begin building your children's book library now. Add to it everything you can get your hands on." I'm afraid I may have taken her literally. Oh, well, at least now I actually have children to read my hundreds of children's books to.

One of my favourite authors is Robert Munsch. I began collecting his work long before I had children of my own, and I am happy to say that we have just about every one of his books. I even saw him in concert once in Saint John, and would LOVE to take my children to see him again, especially now that we live about an hour away from him. He is a tremendously talented storyteller. His books are funny and smart and tender, and often very silly. My kids love them. I think all kids love them! The Paper Bag Princess might as well be considered a literary classic! I love the way the princess rescues the prince, realizes he is a jerk, tells him off and skips happily off into the sunset. It is such a fresh take on the fairy tale, and it really very empowering to little girls.

My husband called me yesterday and told me about a news item he heard on CBC about Robert Munsch admitting to struggling with alcohol and cocaine addictions, related to suffering from bipolar disorder. I was so saddened to hear that a man who has brought such joy to children (and parents, I might add) has battled with his own demons for so long. This morning I read a story in the National Post that reported that most parents are sympathetic to Mr. Munsch and will continue to support him, but did reference one dissenting voice, an influential mother who refuses to read his stories to her children anymore, and encourages other parents to do the same.

I'll admit, I have been guilty of sitting in judgement of public figures who make bad choices. I was angry with Brad when he left Jennifer for Angelina. I did plenty of ranting about Jon and Kate and their childish behaviour. I've had nothing good to say about Tiger. I'm sure I've commented on countless other stars who've been in and out of rehab. But the fact is, Tiger is still a great golfer. Brad still makes pretty good movies. (I'm not sure why Jon and Kate are still a global fascination, but oh well...) And The Paper Bag Princess is still a great story. I would happily read it to my children today, and I will surely run out and buy the next book Mr. Munsch publishes so we can enjoy it together. His addictions do not affect the quality of the books he has written, and they don't need to enter my children's sphere of reference, either. People who write children's books are just people, and I'm sure many of the best authors have skeletons in their closets. I don't need to know what they are, and neither do my kids. All we care about is being entertained, and enjoying some snuggle time with really good books.

The fact is, people who have suffered from addictions of all kinds, or who've just made stupid choices, don't need us to judge them. They need us to continue to support them as they try to do better. Robert Munsch has been alcohol and drug free for four months. I pray he continues to claim victory over his addictions. And since I don't feel the need to do battle with my addiction, I can't wait for his next book to come out. Maybe he could come read it in London. He's welcome to stay at my house!


  1. This is your best post yet - I love it. I was never a Munsch fan because the first one I read was Love You Forever (which always made me gag), but Paper Bag Princess was one I could get behind, and the kids got excited over Mmmm Cookies (which they know by heart) and a few otehrs. Which I guess makes me a late convert. Anna saw him a few years back and loves him, and I have nothing but admiration for the guy, even now. Maybe especially now. Hell, we all have skeletons in our closet. Bravo to him for having the guts to shine the light on them. And well done you for sticking up for him.

  2. I'm not sure I've ever read any Robert Munsch stories. The Paper Bag Princess would be a great book for Amanda... along with the Usborne Book of Art Skills. I also love "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" by Dr. Seuss. Love your blog Leanne!