Every since the touring Much More Munsch exhibit arrived at the Royal Alberta Museum in September, kids have invented new ways of using the interactive activities.
A joint project between the Manitoba Children’s Museum and London Regional Children’s Museum, it promotes a love of reading and reveals the importance of verbal and visual language.
The exhibit is built in the shape of Munsch’s imaginary house with multiple rooms, crannies and nooks each supporting a surprising number of gadgets, knobs and buttons that grunt, squeak and ping.
Designed for children aged six to 12, there is a story car, puppetry stage, an echoing voice recorder, a poetry wall, a word puzzle and an onomatopoeias wall that skilfully educates in the guise of fun.
Just before entering the house, a red brick wall built from removable Styrofoam bricks inscribed with bilingual words encourages children to make phrases and sentences. Four-year-old Juniper Heacock, as yet unable to read, has stacked the regular-sized bricks into a tower. Once completed, she pulls a brick from the middle and giggles as the tower tumbles to the floor.
At every bend Munsch’s favourite characters pop up; Mortimer the boy who can’t be shushed, The Paper Bag Princess’ lonely dragon, The Dark’s shadow slithering out of a three-foot cookie jar and a sofa fashioned after The Mud Puddle.
“There’s lots of room for children to run around in, but there’s quiet places too,” says Karene Gervais, a museum interpreter. She personally conducts up to three story-time circles most days – at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. in English and 11:30 a.m. in French.
Storytime takes place in an angled, odd-shaped corner packed with fluffy pillows to sit on. Today, Gervais, a relation by marriage to St. Albert’s founding family, fills the 20-minute reading with Thomas’ Snowsuit and Up, Up, Down. At each page, she exaggerates word intonation and accompanies each line with amplified body movement, something the half-dozen children enjoy copying.
For children, Munsch’s appeal lies not in the fact he’s published 50 books and sold over 30 million copies. But instead, “His stories are so much fun to read and they are very tangible to kids. They are based on their own experiences,” she says adding, “Children like challenges. One of his techniques is writing in a problem that must be resolved.”
The children’s favourite station is the puppetry stage. “The hand puppets are very popular. They like to perform for family and friends. They can be very creative and make up their own story.”
A close second is the voice recorder, where people record voices and replay it so it sounds like an echo or a Darth Vader impersonation. “They like it because it’s funny to hear how silly their voice sounds.”
As one of the museum’s most timeless and user-friendly exhibitions, it offers a great deal. “Kids can push buttons. They can hear sounds. It’s auditory. It’s tactile and they can move around and have fun.”
Much More Munsch<br />Royal Alberta Museum<br />Exhibiting until April 5<br />Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily <br />Closed Dec. 24 and 25<br />12845 - 102 Ave.<br />Admission: Adult $10, seniors $8, students $7, youth $5, children under six free.