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Tomi Ungerer
Ungerer in 2014
Ungerer in 2014
Born Jean-Thomas Ungerer
28 November 1931 (1931-11-28)
Strasbourg, Alsace, France
Died 9 February 2019(2019-02-09) (aged 87)
Cork, Ireland
Occupation Artist, illustrator, writer
Alma mater Municipal School for Decorative Arts (Strasbourg)
Period 1957–2019
Genre Children's picture books
Notable works
Notable awards Commander of the Legion d'Honneur (2018)
Hans Christian Andersen Award for Illustration (1998)

Jean-Thomas "Tomi" Ungerer ( 28 November 1931 – 9 February 2019) was an Alsatian artist and writer. He published over 140 books. He was known for sharp social satire and witty aphorisms. Ungerer is also famous as a cartoonist and designer of political posters and film posters.

Ungerer received the international Hans Christian Andersen Medal in 1998 for his "lasting contribution" as a children's illustrator.


Ungerer was born in Strasbourg in Alsace, France, the youngest of four children to Alice (Essler) and Theo Ungerer. The family moved to Logelbach, near Colmar, after the death of Tomi's father, Theodore—an artist, engineer, and astronomical clock manufacturer—in 1936. Ungerer also lived through the German occupation of Alsace when the family home was requisitioned by the Wehrmacht.

As a young man, Ungerer was inspired by the illustrations appearing in The New Yorker magazine, particularly the work of Saul Steinberg. In 1957, the year after he moved to the U.S., Harper & Row published his first children's book, The Mellops Go Flying, and his second, The Mellops Go Diving for Treasure; by the early 1960s he had created at least ten children's picture books with Harper, plus a few others, and had illustrated some books by other writers. He also did illustration work for publications including The New York Times, Esquire, Life, Harper's Bazaar, The Village Voice, and for television during the 1960s, and began to create posters denouncing the Vietnam War.

Maurice Sendak called Moon Man (1966) "easily one of the best picture books in recent years." After Allumette: A Fable, subtitled With Due Respect to Hans Christian Andersen, the Grimm Brothers, and the Honorable Ambrose Bierce in 1974, he ceased writing children's books. He eventually returned to children's literature with Flix in 1998. Ungerer donated many of the manuscripts and artwork for his early children's books to the Children's Literature Research Collection at the Free Library of Philadelphia.

A consistent theme in Ungerer's illustrations is his support for European construction, beginning with Franco-German reconciliation in his home region of Alsace, and in particular European values of tolerance and diversity. In 2003, he was named Ambassador for Childhood and Education by the 47-nation Council of Europe.

Strasbourg Musée Tomi Ungerer décembre 2012
The Tomi Ungerer Museum in Strasbourg

In 2007, his home town dedicated a museum to him, the Musée Tomi Ungerer/Centre international de l’illustration.

Ungerer divided his time between Ireland, where he and his wife had moved in 1976, and Strasbourg. In addition to his work as a graphic artist and 'drawer', he was also a designer, toy collector and "archivist of human absurdity."

A biographical documentary film, Far Out Isn't Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story, was produced in 2012. The film was featured at the 2013 Palm Springs International Film Festival. In 2015–2016, the Kunsthaus Zurich and the Museum Folkwang in Essen devoted a large exhibition to Ungerer's artistic oeuvre and in particular his collages. A comprehensive book has been published by Philipp Keel from Diogenes with essays by Tobias Burg, Cathérine Hug and Thérèse Willer.

Ungerer died on 9 February 2019 in Cork, Ireland, aged 87.

Strasbourg-Square du Tivoli Tomi Ungerer-Plaque


Tomi Ungerer described himself first and foremost as a story teller and satirist. Prevalent themes in his work include political satire (such as drawings and posters against the Vietnam War and against animal cruelty) and imaginative subjects for children's books. Ungerer's publications are held by the German National Library, including:

Children's books

  • The Mellops Go Flying (1957)
  • Mellops Go Diving for Treasure (1957)
  • Crictor (1958)
  • The Mellops Strike Oil (1958)
  • Adelaide (1959)
  • Christmas Eve at the Mellops (1960)
  • Emile (1960)
  • Rufus (1961)
  • The Three Robbers (1961)
  • Snail, Where Are You? (1962)
  • Mellops Go Spelunking (1963)
  • Flat Stanley (1964) — art by Tomi Ungerer, written by Jeff Brown
  • One, Two, Where's My Shoe? (1964)
  • Beastly Boys and Ghastly Girls (1964) — art by Tomi Ungerer, poems collected by William Cole
  • Oh, What Nonsense! (1966) — art by Tomi Ungerer, edited by William Cole
  • Orlando, the Brave Vulture (1966)
  • Warwick's Three Bottles (1966) – with André Hodeir
  • Cleopatra Goes Sledding (1967) – with André Hodeir
  • What's Good for a 4-Year-Old? (1967) — art by Tomi Ungerer, text by William Cole
  • Moon Man (Der Mondmann) (Diogenes Verlag, 1966)
  • Zeralda's Ogre (1967)
  • Ask Me a Question (1968)
  • The Sorcerer's Apprentice (1969) — text by Barbara Hazen
  • Oh, How Silly! (1970) — art by Tomi Ungerer, edited by William Cole
  • The Hat (1970)
  • I Am Papa Snap and These Are My Favorite No Such Stories (1971)
  • The Beast of Monsieur Racine (1971)
  • The Hut (1972)
  • Oh, That's Ridiculous! (1972) — art by Tomi Ungerer, edited by William Cole
  • No Kiss for Mother (1973)
  • Allumette; A Fable, with Due Respect to Hans Christian Andersen, the Grimm Brothers, and the Honorable Ambrose Bierce (1974)
  • The Great Song Book — ed. by Timothy John (1978) English version of Das grosse Liederbuch, 1975
  • Tomi Ungerer's Heidi: The Classic Novel (1997) — art by Tomi Ungerer, text by Johanna Spyri
  • Cats as Cats Can (1997)
  • Flix (1998)
  • Tortoni Tremelo the Cursed Musician (1998)
  • Otto: The Autobiography of a Teddy Bear (1999)
  • Zloty (2009)
  • Fog Island (2013)


The biennial Hans Christian Andersen Award conferred by the International Board on Books for Young People is the highest recognition available to a writer or illustrator of children's books. Ungerer received the illustration award in 1998.

In 2018, he was made a commander of the Legion of Honour.

Images for kids

See also

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