Today is the 80th Birthday of Tomi Ungerer. Ungerer is at the center of a recent and much deserved rise in publicity, thanks to the republishing of many of his greatest children's books, by Phaidon Press.
Ungerer is certainly one of the most imaginative of authors and illustrators. He is decidedly off--in a Roald Dahl / Edward Gorey / William Steig sort of way. His stories are always slightly macabre, and rather melancholy. They are not for everyone--though they are loved by many, and perfectly suitable for children. (Ungerer himself is an odd duck; it does not do to dwell too long on his personal life.)
I've only reviewed one of his books, the charming Moon Man, but the head of the Tomi Ungerer Children's Book Blogger Fan Club is Burgin Streetman, of Vintage Books My Kid Loves. She's reviewed so many of his best selections, some of which are now reprinted by Phaidon and other publishing houses.
The Three Robbers (my favorite, besides Moon Man)
Otto: The Autobiography of a Teddy Bear
Christmas Eve at the Mellops'
The Mellops Go Diving for Treasure
Adelaide: The Flying Kangaroo
And you can find many of his out-of-print books on Amazon as well.
Norton Juster writes from NPR Books about his "accidental masterpiece"--The Phantom Tollbooth:
Also, did you notice: all the fellows I talked about last week look alike in their old age. Sendak, Carle, Tomie, Juster and Feiffer. Round faces, white beards. Mostly they all have mischief in their eyes, except for Sendak, who just looks feisty.
Like most good things that have happened in my life, The Phantom Tollbooth came about because I was trying to avoid doing something else. It was 1958, and after three years in the Navy I returned to New York City to work as an architect. I had also received a grant to do a book on cities for children. I started with great energy and enthusiasm until I found myself waist-deep in stacks of 3-by-5 note cards, exhausted and dispirited. This is not what I wanted to do.
In order to stop thinking about cities, I had to start thinking about something else.Also, there's a kickstarter project for a little documentary of the making of The Phantom Tollbooth. Check out the preview, below, and donate to it here.
File this Under: classics