Tomi Ungerer: The Outsider of Children's Literature
Tomi Ungerer is a genius. He’s also the opposite of what a children’s picture book author should be.
After hearing a CBC interview about the celebrated French illustrator, I picked up some of his books to judge their merits for myself. Our household was immediately won over. Both my daughter and my husband requested more and more of his work, and before I knew it, the following titles had made their way into our regular bedtime story rotation.
The moral dimensions of each of these tales are surprisingly sophisticated. Whether telling the story of: three robbers plundering stagecoach passengers; the reclusive Fog Man; the Man in the Moon's incarceration; or a snake, whose likeness has traditionally been reserved for the un-sanctimonious, Ungerer's books encourage children to question perceptions of good and bad in a playful way.
Parents and adults who fall in love with Mr. Ungerer’s work the way that I have, might also be interested in the engaging documentary Far out isn’t far enough. The title of the film takes its name from a previous autobiography, which describes how Tomi and his wife left New York city seeking a rural lifestyle in Nova Scotia as pig farmers – an interesting Canadian connection.