Robert Munsch shares the poignant story of how the iconic book came to be.
No matter your age, if you are alive and reading this, you have probably read one of Robert Munsch children's books. He is famous for writing silly stories that both kids and parents loved. They always had an important underlying message.
Robert Musch was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1945 and grew up in a family of 9 kids. He attended Boston University and studied to become a Jesuit priest, but ultimately decided he would rather work with children. I for one am glad that he did since many of his books were favorites of my children and me.
According to Munsch "My mother says I never grew up and still act like I was 6 years old. She may be right, but I figure that I act like a very mature 6-year-old."
Whether it was a book about BEING QUIET, a paper bag princess, or even bodily functions, this talented writer could turn anything into a great story.
There was one story that led him to immense success and as it turns out, this story was the most personal of them all.
'Love You Forever' came out as a Canadian book in 1986. It's the kind of story that mother's love as it touches the spot in our hearts that speaks of the eternal love we have for our children. It somehow always managed to make me cry.
The story is simple, it tells the story of the evolving relationship between a boy and his mother. The story actually started out as a song. She sings him a special song that we all remember to this day:
I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always,
As long as I'm living,
my baby you'll be.
The story makes me think of the cycle of life. It chronicles the life of a young son and his mother and follows them throughout the boy's life, from newborn to those teen years. Regardless of how annoyed she might be, the mother always visits his bedroom nightly to cradle him in her arms, and sing a brief lullaby promising to always love him.
Things get a little controversial when the son enters adulthood and leaves home, his elderly mother still sneaks into his bedroom at night to sing her favorite lullaby. It seems like a bit of an invasion of privacy but, it carries a message. Gradually his mother grows old and frail, and we see the now-grown son visit his feeble, sickly mother for the final time. Upon arrival, the mother tries to sing her lullaby to him, but she is too weak to finish. The son cradles mom in his arms and sings an altered version of her lullaby. After returning home in a scene implying the death of his mother, he cradles his newborn daughter and sings his mother's signature lullaby for her, implying that the cycle will continue.
In 2001, Maria Shriver wrote in O, The Oprah Magazine: "I have yet to read this book through without crying. It says so much about the circle of life, youth, parenting, and our responsibility for our parents as we grow older.
There's a good reason that this song and story are able to make us all so emotional. It was based on a truly heartbreaking story from Robert Munsch's real life. As it turns out, Munsch had written it as a memorial for two stillborn babies we had in 1979 and 1980.
Before “ Love You Forever ” was a nursery staple, it was a simple, four-line poem that Munsch would sing silently to himself after his wife gave birth to a stillborn baby. It was the second stillbirth the couple had to mourn.
Munsch says the song was too painful to sing out loud. For a long time, he couldn’t even share it with his wife.
“[The song] was my way of crying,” Munsch told The Huffington Post .
Following the second stillbirth, the couple was told by doctors that they would never be able to have children.
As you can imagine, they were devastated. Munsch dedicated his life to writing children's books and his wife made her living working with children as well. The couple met when they were both working at Bromley Heath Infant Daycare in Jamaica Plain, Mass.
"You know when someone walks up to you and gives you a sucker punch right in the solar plexus? [It felt] like that," Munsch told HuffPost of coping with the loss he felt.
Munsch and his wife went on to adopt three children, but his song was how he grieved their two previous losses. He would sing it to himself like a silent lullaby, finding it too painful to write down or speak aloud.
Usually, when coming up with a story, Munsch would practice on children, telling the story out loud, over and over to different crowds at daycares and schools, until he perfected it. This was not the case with what went on to become one of the All-Time Bestselling Children's Books. After having sung the lines to himself for years, he was struck with the story to accompany the lullaby whilst on stage, and just like that 'Love You Forever' was born. This was the first time that a story had come out whole, usually, he perfected them over years of telling. This was the first time anybody, including his wife, had heard the story and everyone was visibly moved. As for his wife, "she felt it, too."
Since 1986, it has sold over 15 million copies. As he says on his website , “parents buy it for grandparents and grandparents buy it for parents and kids buy it for everybody and everybody buys it for kids.”
"The book is kind of an ideal, the way we hope things will happen," Munsch told HuffPost. "It's the only one of my books that escaped being a children's book."
Munsch retired from storytelling in 2008, following a stroke. He is now at the stage in the story where he relates to the old, frail mother.
"For someone who picks up the book, it's their story, not mine," Munsch said. While the story that prompted the book is heartbreaking, the book has helped millions of people express their love for a friend or family member.