Get to know Tomi Ungerer in five images

On the author’s birthday (happy 87th, Tomi!) we look back at his work via a handful of key illustrations
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Tomi Ungerer. Photo by Herman Baily
Tomi Ungerer. Photo by Herman Baily

The children’s author Tomi Ungerer turns 87 today, and is still charming both young and old readers. He has a show opening at Galerie Martel in Paris this weekend; he received his Commandeur de la Legion d’honneur medal from President Macron last month; and his Instagram following just topped 10,000! How does he do it? Well, here’s a brief insight into his work, via a handful of his images.

 

The Three Robbers, as reproduced in Tomi Ungerer: A Treasury of 8 Books
The Three Robbers, as reproduced in Tomi Ungerer: A Treasury of 8 Books

A little darkness There are child-eating ogres, burning baby carriages and gun-toting highwaymen in Ungerer’s children’s books. However, the darkness never overshadows the childlike charm of the stories. The Three Robbers, pictured above, open an orphanage at the end of their story.

 

A page from Otto, as reproduced in Tomi Ungerer: A Treasury of 8 Books
A page from Otto, as reproduced in Tomi Ungerer: A Treasury of 8 Books

A bit of history Ungerer was born in France near the border with Germany and can remember the Nazis marching into his homeland. The war left a lasting impression on him, and sometimes crops up in his work, such as in this touching story of Otto, a wartime teddy bear.

 

A page from Moon Man, as reproduced in Tomi Ungerer: A Treasury of 8 Books
A page from Moon Man, as reproduced in Tomi Ungerer: A Treasury of 8 Books

Some incredible flights of fancy In Ungerer’s tales the man in the moon pops down to earth to party; a strange old man boils up sea water to create the coastal fog; and a dog becomes the first ever canine mayor of Cat Town. Kids (and adult readers) never can tell what’s going to come next.

 

A page from Fog Island, as reproduced in Tomi Ungerer: A Treasury of 8 Books
A page from Fog Island, as reproduced in Tomi Ungerer: A Treasury of 8 Books

A worldly vision Ungerer has lived in France and North America and has now settled on the west coast of Ireland. This worldliness is captured in the pictures, from Belle Époque Europe to the bustle of mid-century Manhattan, to the splendid isolation of the Irish coastline, pictured here, in Fog Island.

 

A page from Christmas at the Mellops
A page from Christmas at the Mellops

Extraordinary animals Plenty of authors have created cute books about dogs and cats, but fewer have characters like Emile, Ungerer’s friendly octopus, or the Mellops, his family of industrious, though slightly hapless pigs.

 

Tomi Ungerer: A Treasury of 8 Books

You can read all about how the Mellops mark the festive season in Christmas at the Mellops, and you can read all the other stories mentioned in our Tomi Ungerer Treasury. Order it here, now, and get it in time for Christmas.


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