The Mellops Go Flying, Crictor and Adelaide were among the first fables drawn by Tomi Ungerer. They were created in New York and published by Ursala Nordstrom, editor at Harper and Brothers who immediately recognized the talent of the brilliant young artist from Europe. Reviving a tradition pioneered by Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit, the illustrator brings to life familiar animals including pigs in the Mellops or unpopular figures like the boa constrictor in Crictor, or the unusual as with the kangaroo in Adelaide. These albums are marked with an identical linear style and enhanced with colorful ink washing.
Over the next decade Tomi Ungerer continued to take an interest in personified animals in both children’s books and other graphic genres. Thanks to Rufus the batand the octopus Emile, he continues the tradition of fables with a moralistic end as a follow-up to the Mellops, Crictor and Adelaide. Published in 1964, the Clambake Mutiny is a story full of humor written by Jerome Beatty whose main characters are shellfish. This book’s style takes a different turn from other fables written by Tomi Ungerer in that its tone and spirit make use of satirical drawing. The original drawings in this book that was left unpublished in France are being shown here for the very first time. Ask me a question is a book of riddles that Ungerer conjured up in 1968, intended for very young children that has never been shown in France until now. The main theme turns around questions in a variety of forms that he introduces through his drawings to create nonsensical figures, something that takes shape throughout his work.
I Am Papa Snap…published in 1971 is a collection of illustrated short stories following in the pure nonsensical style he inherited from English illustrator Edward Lear. Tomi Ungerer pokes fun at society and its shortcomings by way of humanized animals who find themselves in preposterous situations such as a mouse carrying a bathtub or a mole who smokes a cigar. In The Beast of Monsieur Racine the animal is the fruit of the imagination of two children who play tricks on an honest old retired man. This book, which was considered to be the first pornographic book for children when it was first published, can be said to contain bits of salacious material discernable throughout its pages. We can also discern references to animated scenes teaming with details gleaned from the illustrator Dubout. Clic-Clac, a book of drawings-collages that reuses a process that the artist began in the sixties, is brimming with graphical allusion. Through the use of cut outs glued and incorporated onto the drawing, Ungerer plays around with unlikely animal forms with absurdity taken to its extreme. The personified animal assumes other stylistic forms in Das grosse Liederbuch.
This is the author’s most autobiographical book for children. Its hero, Jo the kitten refuses maternal affection as did the young Tomi way back when. Drawn in graphite on tracing paper, these drawings stand apart from the usual colorful works he produces for children. The book caused a scandal in the United States due to some images which were considered scandalous.