The Three robbers has become a classic book for children. It tells the story of three bandits that a little girl named Tiffany turns into good men, it has been read around the world and obtained numerous awards.
Designed as a work of satire, the book stands apart from other books by Tomi Ungerer with its very Japanese style, emphasized by a synthetic line and the use of black contrasting with bright colors.
In Zeralda’s Ogre, a fearsome ogre, sort of combination between Gilles de Rais and the ogre of Hop o’ my Thumb is charmed by a little girl named Zeralda who opens his eyes to gastronomy. Colorful scenes make their way into the book, and there is a surprising moral behind the story, typical of Ungerer, the little girl has grown up to become the loving wife of an ogre transformed into a good giant. Another atypical hero is the character in Moon Man sent to earth to visit humans. He is quickly confronted with the unkindness and injustice around him and returns to space. Inspired by the science fiction of Jules Verne, this tale is a satire about society that blends old and modern times.
In The Hat, Benito Badoglio is a mutilated war veteran who, thanks to a magical hat, finds happiness and fortune. True satire commenting war and society, the book recounts an Italy of yesteryear.
Tomi Ungerer revisits the famous tale by Hans Christian Andersen, The Little Match Girl in two versions, one called Elveda published in 1965 in the American magazine Queer, the other Allumette: A Fable with Due Respect to Hans Christian Andersen, the Grimm Brothers and the Honorable Ambrose Bierce published in 1974.
In both cases Tomi Ungerer highlights the miserable side of the fable, taking his inspiration from writer Ambrose Bierce to paint the cynical side of society. Only the ending has been changed : Allumette concludes with a joyful and moralizing epilogue whereas Elveda meets an unfortunate end, when she is crushed under the weight of victuals falling from the sky on Christmas Eve.
Tomi Ungerer illustrated The Sorcerer’s Apprentice in 1969, His version has been personalized to include numerous biographical elements. Using a rich array of colors, his illustrations depict Alsace and landscape around the Rhine’s shore in a style close to Romantic imagery. He uses an identical style in A Storybook from Tomi Ungerer which is a collection of several tales of Anglo-Saxon and Germanic origin for example Das Feuerzeug by Hans Christian Andersen.
Tales and legends are also the theme for a series of Children’s Posters illustrating Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. The series as a whole is being presented here for the first time.
Tomi Ungerer has profoundly left his mark upon children’s books. We can count among his contemporaries who have renewed the genre and illustration in general: Bob Blechman, Etienne Delessert, André François and Maurice Sendak. If the term “Ungerer’s school” seems a bit strong, there are undoubtedly similarities and like-styles in the works by illustrators for children’s books as diverse as those of Béatrice Alemagna, Magali Bonniol, Dorothée de Monfreid, Frédéric Lemaitre, Alan Mets, Mario Ramos and Grégoire Solotareff.