Review by New York Times Review
ONE reason few people today know Tomi Ungerer's books is that a synopsis of anything by him doesn't exactly read like "Goodnight Moon." The hero of "No Kiss for Mother," a little boy cat who doesn't brush his teeth, starts fights in class, carries a slingshot and smokes cigars at school. In "Moon Man" mobs drive away a kindly stranger, the man in the moon. "Zeralda's Ogre" stars an ogre who eats children. It all makes parents a little leery, not to mention reviewers, who have called Ungerer "brutal," "nasty" and "diabolic." The fact that Ungerer is an illustrator who has done some very funny erotic satires, in addition to caustic antiwar posters in the '70s (a soldier shoving a cross down the throat of a Vietnamese citizen, for example) does not help his popularity among play-date organizers. No synopsis of Ungerer's oeuvre, in short, will get at what is delightful and artistically nourishing about his work, especially his children's books - his absurdity, as seen in this (complete) story from "I Am Papa Snap and These Are My Favorite No Such Stories" (1971): Bunny Bunson Brittle goes fishing. He has no permit. Who cares? There are no fish. They don't make nonsense like they used to, in other words; wit has been replaced, to a disheartening degree, with poop jokes. If, like my wife and me, you have raised children on out-of-print Ungerer stories - in addition to "Goodnight Moon," by the way - then you will be pleased to learn that more than 20 of his picture books are being reissued by Phaidon Press, beginning with "The Three Robbers," first published in 1963, six years after he arrived in New York City from Strasbourg. (He now lives in Ireland.) The three robbers mentioned are exactly that - a dark band roaming the night-time countryside. "The first had a blunderbuss," Ungerer writes. "The second had a pepper-blower. And the third had a huge red ax." Blunderbuss is pure Ungerer. It's a word that is not afraid of its weaponliness. The robbers ax carriage wheels, terrify brave men. They hide their loot in a cave in the mountains - trunks and chests full of treasure. As one preschool teacher I know explains to her students (while they nod knowingly): "The robbers aren't mean. They are just rude." The robbers come upon a carriage carrying a little girl, an orphan, who, because she is on her way to live with an evil aunt, feels fortunate to be plunder. The robbers take her back to their cave. When she wakes in the morning, she sees the treasure and asks, "What is all this for?" The robbers are dumbfounded, a joke that reads even better during a financial crisis. Resolution eventually comes as "all the lost, unhappy and abandoned children" are gathered up and brought to a castle, bought with treasure. "The children grew until they were old enough to marry." "My interest and hobbies vary and alternate," Ungerer wrote to a friend around 1971. "Kites and balloons, old toys, books, bondage, erotica, mineralogy, botany, medicine, jazz - the list is vain and endless." His drawings show a love of the details of all these, rendered with a late-medieval lusciousness: the pepper sprayer is part musical instrument, part mining machinery, part toy. The dark erotica that apparently hurt him with children's book buyers can seem like a warning about the mechanization of sex. (His 1970 book "Fornicon" essentially predicts that modern life might do to sexuality what the Wii is doing to children's play.) We Americans have a difficult time imagining that our children's book authors have thought about sex, even though sex often leads to children's book readers. Fortunately, Ungerer has never been terribly inconvenienced by sentimental notions, as we see in another excerpt from "No Such Stories": Mr. Limpid is blind. Mrs. Limpid is lame. They are old. They are happy. They have each other. Robert Sullivan is the author of "Rats" and "The Thoreau You Don't Know," to be published in March.
Copyright (c) The New York Times Company [October 27, 2009]
Review by Booklist Review
Ages 6-8. Atheneum announces the reissue of this amusing story, illustrated in dark blues and black, about three robbers who are tamed by a young girl named Tiffany. BE. Robbers and outlaws Fiction [CIP] 87-11549
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
``One bitter, black night,'' three ferocious highwaymen meet their match in a spunky orphan named Tiffany; Ungerer's bold, fanciful artwork, rendered primarily in black and deep blue tones, enliven this cautionary tale of foul deeds transmogrified. Ages 5-8. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Horn Book Review
Three robbers in high black hats and black capes walk the roads in the dark of night "searching for victims." Everyone trembles and panics--until Tiffany comes along. Original, arresting, entertaining, beautiful, big, and wonderful; words are inadequate to convey the effect of Ungerer's use of color--bold black figures against an intense deep-blue background, with brilliant reds, yellows, and greens for dramatic highlights. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.
(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.