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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Celebrating Tomi Ungerer in Style (Artists Need Apply)

Oh, where to begin.

So the other day, I got to thinking that my kids have had an insufficient dosage of Tomi Ungerer in their daily diets.  Ungerer, if you are unfamiliar with him, has always been the enfant terrible of children’s literature.  Having dared to publish children’s books for kids at the same time as his wildly erotic adult art for (obviously) adults, he was run out on a rail from the States, though he continued to make his books.  The only story of his I’d ever read the children is Crictor, and I was toying with the notion of showing them No Kiss for Mother (which I don’t think I’m emotionally cohesive enough to tackle at this time) or The Beast of Monsieur Racine.  In the end I took the easy route out and borrowed The Three Robbers from the library (partially inspired by that Salon post about the kid who only like to read about “bad guys”).

ungererNext thing I know, Phaidon is republishing eight of Tomi’s books in this new, gorgeous, collection called Tomi Ungerer: A Treasury of 8 Books.

But even better than that is what they’re planning for Tomi’s 85th birthday.  On November 28th (and they’re announcing this widely so I guess it won’t be a surprise) Phaidon will hand to the man a virtual birthday tribute “filled with drawing and written messages from friends and fans. The birthday greetings will be displayed on a dedicated page on the Phaidon website — — and then printed and presented to Tomi for his birthday.”

They’re accepting entries for this right now, librarians, artists, writers, and fans.  Do you want to submit?  Submit! [looking at you, Sergio Ruzzier]  Definitely check out some of the submissions so far.  I like the Eric Carle, the Milton Glaser, and the suggestive one from Sarah Illenberger, but the Jean Jullien is my favorite by far.

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. I wish I were an illustrator so I could pay tribute! I love Ungerer’s words, “Je n’ai pas de langue maternelle, j’ai simplement plusieurs langues fraternelles.” Such a perfect way to understand multilingualism…

  2. Also Flix is a CRAZY, AMAZING book; I heard my friend Christine Hélôt give a talk about it earlier this year and it was out of control

  3. Reading aloud No Kiss for Mother to my niece and nephew about the bad ‘child’ rubbing his toothbrush on the edge of the basin “in case Mother Snoop was listening” seemed hilarious, but strangely I didn’t share it with my own children a decade later. Now I know it was lack of emotional cohesion holding me back.

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      I tell ya, man. That emotional incohesion (oh, I’m just making up words today) will throw you for a loop.

  4. I love the Milton Glaser and Jean Julien ones!!

  5. Many a year ago, I was the second editor to Ursula Nordstrom on No Kiss For Mother–meaning I read galleys, wrote flap copy, and checked the art to be sure Tomi tried no trickery. I remember Ursula asking Tomi to please please change the title because what mother would buy it? He wouldn’t budge.

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Oo. Thank you, Fran. Sound about right, in terms of Tomi’s stubbornness. It is one of the most memorable titles out there, in his defense.