Be Careful with This One

April 6, 2015

Tomi Ungerer, in undated, uncredited photograph.

So … Tomi Ungerer:

Tomi Ungerer was, for a brief reign, the king of children’s illustration. After moving to New York in 1956, the French artist and writer published a succession of unusual yet wildly successful children’s books, including “The Three Robbers,” about a trio of winsome burglars, and “Crictor,” about a rather unlikely protagonist―a lovable snake. From the start, Ungerer held a special place in his heart for the outsider, the underdog, the weirdo, the trickster. This unusual vantage point, along a ravenous imagination and wicked dark side, set Ungerer apart from the traditional “happily ever after” children’s book originator.


Illustration by Tomi Ungerer.This is hardly a mysterious phenomenon; Shel Silverstein is well known for his daring subversion, including massive drug use, venereal disease, and romancing the furniture. But Uncle Shelby is gone, now, and it is hard to know quite what to think about an eighty-three year-old man who sits down for an interview and explains, “I’m in France and I’m absolutely the youngest person here, you can’t imagine. It’s absolutely hilarious. A lady told me ‘I lost my husband in the war.’ I asked her which war and she couldn’t remember!”

Yeah, you know that’s gonna be a something-something interview, eh?

Which is the other thing: Content Warning! It is, after all, Tomi Ungerer; what seems hilarious to me might be shocking to others, but I can promise there are at least a couple of illustrations you don’t want your coworkers or kids to see. (Don’t ask about the frog, unless you can manage to get hold of Mr. Ungerer himself.)



Frank, Priscilla. “Inside the Mind of the World’s Naughtiest Children’s Book Illustrator”. The Huffington Post. 6 April 2015.


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