Robert Munsch is known as a children's author who writes books that appeal to both kids and adults. His universal appeal makes his books worth considering to determine how he achieves his effects. An analysis of three of Munsch's books will now be completed. These books are Stephanie's Ponytail, Andrew's Loose Tooth, and 50 Below Zero. All three of these books were illustrated by Michael Martchenko. By considering the technique, style, meaning, and humor, some effective techniques in children's literature will be observed.
The technique is similar in all three books, with all three storylines having a similar pattern. The technique is based on establishing repetition, providing a variation on the repetition, and then using the repetition that has been set up to conclude the story with a twist. In Stephanie's Ponytail, the repetition begins as Stephanie tells her mother that she wants a ponytail coming right out the back. When she goes to school with the ponytail, the other kids tell her it is ugly. Stephanie replies that she likes her ponytail. The next day, the other kids have a ponytail just like Stephanie's. This pattern repeats three times as Stephanie moves her ponytail from behind her head, to the side of her head, and then to the top of the head. This sets up a regular pattern to the book. It is also important to note that as well as the events being the same, they are always expressed in similar ways. For example, each morning when Stephanie gets her ponytail starts with her Mom asking "Stephanie, would you like a ponytail coming out the back?" And Stephanie replying "NNNo." This is added to though as the book continues. On the first morning, this is the only question asked. On the third morning "Would you like one coming out the side?" is also asked. On the fifth morning "Would you like one coming out the top?" is added. This technique is important because it allows the storyline to expand and become more complicated, but also keeps the storyline familiar. This serves threes purposes. Firstly, it helps to make readers more comfortable with the storyline by making it seem more familiar. Secondly, it adds an element of predictability. This is important because it means that children are not just experiencing the story but are able to engage with it by guessing what is coming next. Finally, it slowly draws readers into the storyline. The same pattern is seen again in Andrew's Loose Tooth. The storyline of the book deals with Andrew's loose tooth and how various people attempt to remove it. The pattern is established at the start as Andrew attempts to eat an apple. This is always described in the same way with Andrew picking up an apple, shining it on his shirt, taking a bite, and yelling. The story expands because each time this happens, Andrew yells for a different person to help him. In the first case, he yells for this mother. In the second case, he yells for his father. In the third case, he yells for his mother and his father. Like in Stephanie's Ponytail, the repetition is strong enough that the reader knows the sequence of events that are going to take place. The thing that is left unknown is how each person is going to respond to Andrew and what solution they are going to attempt. This is an additional element that helps to draw the reader into the story. At the same time, the repetitive pattern keeps the element of familiarity that helps to make the reader comfortable with the book. The same pattern is also seen in 50 Below Zero. In this book, Jason is always waking up and going to find his father, who sleepwalks. The general pattern is the same with Jason looking for his father, finding his father, waking up his father, and then having his father go back to bed. As well as the events being the same, there is also a repetition of working. For example, Jason always yells "PAPA, WAKE UP!" And this is always followed by his father jumping up and running around whatever he was sleeping on three times. Again, this repetition makes the story seem familiar and predictable, which helps to make the reader more comfortable with it. Like in Andrew's Loose Tooth, there is an extra element that helps to make the reader curious. In Andrew's Loose Tooth, the surprise element was what the next crazy solution for removing the tooth would be. In 50 Below Zero, it is what crazy place Jason will find his father in next. In these two books, this is a feature that helps to create interest in the story and keep the reader reading. Overall then, the repetitive pattern in all three books is used both to interest the reader in the book and to make them comfortable with the storyline.
As the story continues, the technique changes. This occurs as the author provides variations on the repetition. In all three books, this occurs after three cycles of close repetition. In Stephanie's Ponytail, the changing act is when she goes to school with the ponytail in front of her face. While the events were following a close pattern, this event changes the pattern as the resulting events are different. In the other cases, everyone just had the same hair as Stephanie. In this case, Stephanie walks into trees, cars, and houses on the way to school. At school, the students and the teacher walk into everything because nobody can see where they are going and three girls go into the boys' toilet by mistake. It is important to note that this expansion of the story occurs after the repetition has made the reader comfortable. It is also important to note that this variation creates a lot of the humor in the book. This is an effective technique because it is only after the reader has settled into the book that they are comfortable enough to enjoy the variation. The humor is also enhanced because the events are unexpected. This adds to the entertainment value of the book, enhances the storyline, and prevents the book from becoming so predictable that readers lose interest. The same technique is used in 50 Below Zero. As noted, a repeating pattern is established as Jason finds his father in various places in the house. The pattern is then broken when Jason looks for his father, finds the front door open, and has to search for his father outside. Rather than return his father back to his bed like before, Jason has to get his sled and pull his father home. Like in Stephanie's Ponytail, this expands the storyline by making the consequences of an event greater than they were earlier. This makes the book more interesting and prevents it from becoming too predictable. Variations on the repetition are also used in Andrew's Loose Tooth, but the variation is a little different. The change occurs when Andrew is taken to the dentist to have the tooth removed. This represents a shift in the story, since Andrew is now going beyond his parents for the solution. This shifts again as Andrew calls the Tooth Fairy for her help and then asks his friend Louis for help. Unlike the other two books, variation is added in several steps, rather than by one significant step. The purpose of the variation does remain the same, though, since it is used to expand the story, to create interest in the storyline, and to prevent the story from becoming too predictable. In this case though, the element of the variation that makes the difference is that the reader is no longer wondering what will be done next to remove the tooth, but is also wondering who Andrew will go to next for help. Finally, it is important to note that the shifts that occur in the middle of the book contribute to the ending of each book.
In each book, the beginning and middle of the book builds up to create a need for the ending. In Stephanie's Ponytail, a need is created because there is nothing left that she can do. She has put the ponytail in every possible position and she still has not achieved being different from everyone else. At the same time, each time she has moved the ponytail, the results have been greater. At first, just the girls were copying her. The next time, the girls and some of the boys copied her. The next time, even the teacher copied her. In addition, the consequences were greater on the third time, with everyone running into each other. This creates a need for a new solution. At the same time, it creates reader interest in the ending because it is no longer possible to predict what will happen next. At this point, the final twist on the repetition occurs as Stephanie uses the fact that everyone will…