French illustrator Tomi Ungerer, who published more than 140 books, has died at the age of 87.
The news was announced on his website, which said: “It is with deep regret that we announce the passing of Tomi Ungerer. He died peacefully in his sleep with a book beside him.”
Ungerer was born in Strasbourg in Alsace in November 1931. Strasbourg was annexed by the Nazis and Ungerer started drawing cartoons mocking Hitler at the age of nine. Ungerer moved to the US in 1995 and began publishing illustrations in magazines. His early chidlren’s books included the The Mellops’ series and The Three Robbers and for a while he was the food editor of Playboy magazine. In the 1960s he created posters campaigning against the Vietnam war and published Fornicon, a work of erotic satire.
In 2016 85 artists from around the world celebrated Ungerer’s 85th birthday with an exhibition in Strasbourg of works created in his honour. He was proclaimed ‘Commandeur de la Légion d’Honneur’ by the French government in 2018.
He passed away in Ireland, where he moved with his wife in the 1970s.
Last month Phaidon published Emile, a new children’s book by Ungerer about a helpful Octopus.
“[Emile] stands as a fine testament to the sense of life, fun and adventure and eternally quirky way of looking at this world and the next that was Tomi Ungerer’s,” said the publisher. “For Tomi, far out was, indeed, never quite far enough.”
“How you should treat children in literature was very important to him,” says Phaidon’s Paris-based Foreign Editions Manager Hélène Gallois Montbrun. “He loved plays on words. Don't hope, cope, was one of them. He told me that in his books children are never scared - whatever the situation. Encouraging kids to play with fear was so important for him.”