Prolific childrens’ author, and honorary Canadian, Robert Munsch is a joyful storyteller whose characters are brave, hilarious and totally bizarre. His generous use of repetition and onomatopoeia (oh-no-ma-toh-pee-ah)—when words imitate the sound they make (like whap, swish, chik, glick and plunk)—truly delight kids (while consistently annoying parents). Robert Munsch brings the weird, the impossible, the fantastic to all of his stories, so it was particularly challenging to isolate the bits that are way, way out there. With a Hmmm and Whooooaaaa and a LOLLLL, here are our favourite totally irrresistible, totally ridiculous Robert Munsch moments.
1. David’s Father
“Julie said, “Well, David, you do have a very nice father after all, but he is still kind of scary.’
‘You think he is scary?’ said David. ‘Wait till you meet my grandmother.’”
David’s father is a giant with a deep, booming voice and a diet that consists of snails, octopus and chocolate-covered bricks. We catch just a glimpse of grandma on the final page in the book: One enormous leg, absolutely covered in thick dark hair and capped off with a shiny red pump.
2. Just One Goal!
“One game that Ciara might have won ended when a moose went to sleep in the net. Another game ended when a bear chased everyone off the ice. Another game ended when a bunch of teenagers raced through on their snowmobiles.”
There is nothing—not a moose or a bear or delinquent snowmobilers or the rink breaking up and floating down the river—that would stop a Canadian hockey player from scoring one last goal (unless they play for the Toronto Maple Leafs).
3. Mmm, Cookies!
“…the teacher said, ‘And now would everyone like to make some REAL cookies?’
And the class yelled ‘YES!’
And when Christopher was done with his cookie…
He took it home to give to his mother and father.”
After tricking his parents with cookies made of play clay, Christopher rolls an enormous real cookie home from school for them—they are understandably wary. The cookie is as big as his house, taller than the playground slide and attracts many hungry creatures, including happy kids, birds, insects—and a pterodactyl. Which causes us to wonder: What kind of cookies were Munsch, and his illustrator Michael Martchenko, munching on when they conceived of this trippy conclusion?
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4. Purple, Green and Yellow
“She called the doctor and said, ’Help! Help! Help! My daughter has coloured herself with super-indelible-never-come-off-till-you’re-dead-and-maybe-even-later colouring markers!’
‘Oh dear,’ said the doctor. ‘Sometimes they never come off.’
The doctor came over and gave Brigid a large, orange pill. She said, ‘Take this pill, wait five minutes and then take a bath.’
…When Brigid walked out of the bathroom she was invisible.”
Two questions: What is the name of this doctor and can we get a prescription for these large, orange invisibility pills?
5. The Fire Station
“’Right,” said Shiela. “I went to a fire in the back of a fire truck and I got all smoky. I WASN’T EVEN SCARED.’
Sheila went inside and lived in the bathtub for five days until she got clean.”
We call bullsh*t. Getting a child to stay in the tub for even five minutes: Impossible.
6. Alligator Baby
“Then the people baby reached up and bit the gorilla on the nose, and the gorilla yelled, ‘Aaaaaaaahhhhhaaaaa!’ and handed the baby to Kristen.
Kristen jumped on her bicycle and pedalled home.”
It’s all absurd here: Dad wakes with a start in the middle of the night to drive labouring mom, not to the hospital, but to the zoo to deliver their baby. Mom and dad are so taken by exhaustion, so flooded with endorphins, that they swaddle the wrong baby and head home. To their daughter, Kristen, they present an alligator baby first, a seal baby second and a gorilla baby third. The animals bust out of the zoo and crash down the door to retrieve their kin. Kristen is the one who sets it all right: Cycling to the zoo in the dark, a flashlight strapped to her head (not weird: Phew, she’s wearing a helmet!), to finally get her baby brother.
7. Down the drain
“’Well,’ said Adam, “I might pull the plug if you got me an enormous hamburger.’
So Adam’s father drove to the hamburger store and bought an enormous hamburger for Adam. Then he came back, opened the bathroom door really fast, and threw in the hamburger before the water could get out.
Then he yelled really loud, ‘Adam! Pull the plug!’”
Adam gets filthy and then floods the bathroom when his dad insists he have a bath (there are a lot of dirty kids in baths in Robert Munsch stories). Adam bribes his father for a burger (and a skateboard and sneakers) before he’ll agree to drain the tub. Dude, you left your drowning kid to go to the hamburger store?! Why not just call Uber Eats?
8. No Clean Clothes
“When Lacey got to school, she ran inside and yelled, ‘Teacher! Teacher! Look! I got a kitty-cat kiss. I got a doggie kiss. I got an eagle kiss. I got a moose kiss—all because of my Wonderful Grandma Shirt!’
‘Neat,’ said her teacher. ‘But maybe you should go and wash. Your hair is full of green moose slime.’
A kid with moose-slime hair? NBD. Teachers have way bigger issues to deal with in the classroom—like fidget spinners.
9. Stephanie’s Ponytail
“The first person to come the next day was the teacher. She had shaved her head and she was bald.
The next to come were the boys. They had shaved their heads and they were bald.
The next to come were the girls. They had shaved their heads and they were bald.
The last person to come was Stephanie, and she had…a nice little ponytail coming right out the back.”
Stephanie is the school’s hair trendsetter, but gets so frustrated when everyone cops her look that she threatens to shave her head. Everyone wants to be like Stephanie so badly, they follow suit—and end up looking like a mass of creepy kids straight out of a horror movie: Copycats gone bad.
10. The Paper Bag Princess
“’Ronald,’ said Elizabeth, ‘your clothes are really pretty and your hair is very neat. You look like a real prince, but you are a bum.’
They didn’t get married after all.”
Girl outsmarts a fire-breathing dragon, rescues her crush from the castle and tells him to take a hike when he’s ungrateful. All while wearing a paper sack. Nothing at all weird here, actually. This princess is boss.
11. Thomas’ Snowsuit
“So the principal picked up Thomas in one hand, he picked up the teacher in the other hand, and he tried to get them back into their clothes. When he was done, the principal was wearing the teacher’s dress, the teacher was wearing the principal’s suit, and Thomas was still in his underwear.”
So many issues. This story was written in 1985, when all phones were rotary, children could sneak into fire engines and teachers could swap clothes in the middle of a school day.
12. I’ll love you forever
“If all the lights in her son’s house were out, she opened his bedroom window, crawled across the floor, and looked up over the side of his bed.”
His mother drives across town with a ladder strapped to the roof of her car, climbs in his second-storey window and crawls across the floor to watch him sleep. I’ll love you forever is probably Munsch’s best-known, most-sold book and people like to gush about how it, like, totally makes them cry. But it’s about a stalker mom, plain and simple! Of course, real Munsch fans know that this book was actually written to honour Munsch’s stillborn babies, so as far-fetched as the plotline is, its message of parental love is nonetheless poignant.
13. Mud Puddle
“Jule Ann threw a bar of soap right into the mud puddle’s middle. The mud puddle stopped… . It ran across the grass, jumped over the fence, and never came back.”
We are not questioning the existence of predatory mud puddles that jump upon and cover children. No doubt they do exist. However, we do not believe they are easily cowed by a smelly bar of yellow soap. That mud puddle will find your kid. Every. Single. Time.
14. Millicent and the Wind
“’Wind,’ said Millicent, ‘you blow through the hair of every child everywhere in the world. Can you find me someone to play tag with?’
‘Boy or girl?’ said the wind.
‘Get me a friend,’ said Millicent.
The wind turned into something huge and enormous that rumbled the rocks and bent the trees and whistled off far away until Millicent could not hear it anymore.
But in a little while it came back and it carried a boy. The wind put him down.
Millicent looked at the boy. The boy looked at Millicent.
‘Let’s play!’ said Millicent. And they did.”
Kid bugging you for a playdate for the 1,724th time? Tell him to ask the wind. Should work.