Last Friday larger than life author illustrator Tomi Ungerer died.
For the Wonder Ponder team, Ungerer was many things. First, as readers, he was the author of some of our favourite children books: No Kiss for Mother, The Three Robbers, Zeralda’s Ogre, Flix, Crictor, Moon Man, The Beast of Monsieur Racine… to name just a few.
On the other hand, Ungerer, like us, had a rather special relationship with questions. We were big fans of his illustrated answers to children’s philosophical questions for Philosophie Magazine, which were collected in a book and published last year: Ni oui ni non.
As authors, Ungerer is always a graphic reference and a model of boldness to bear in mind. Readers who look carefully will find more than one hidden or not so hidden tribute to him in our books.
In the poster included in our Cruelty Bites box, readers will find our beloved Piper Paw from No Kiss for Mother.
In the poster included in our Whatever You Want box, featuring that splendid FREE HOUSE, it is not difficult to spot who presides it, with all their treasure hoarded up in the attic.
But we have a story involving Tomi Ungerer, and we think it explains exactly how we feel.
One day about three years ago we thought of sending Ungerer our books and we contacted his daughter Aria via his Twitter account. She very kindly gave us her address for us to send them on. At the time we had only published two titled, Cruelty Bites and I, Person, and we sent him both, signed and drawn, with a letter inviting him to spot some of the hidden surprises we had included for him.
His daughter’s message came soon after: “Hi, Your package just arrived and I shall hand deliver it to Tomi tomorrow so perfect timing. I absolutely ADORE what you guys have done! A
And the following day, another message: “He loved it!” (attaching this picture)”.
Did we shriek? Maybe. We were excited and very touched with his generosity.
We thought we couldn’t feel any more chuffed when a few days later, we received a hand writtten letter from Tomi Ungerer, spotted with stamped mottoes: “Expect the unexpected”, “Don’t hope, cope”.” En souvenir du futur… “ In the letter itself, he says several things, but mainly two: that there should be copies of the Wonder Ponder boxes at every school and that he hoped we would continue with the project.
It may seem silly and of course it did not change our lives. But it is not every day that an author you admire shows such generosity with time and words. It is VERY encouraging. Thank you very much for the encouragement, Tomi. And thank you even more for your books.
And we leave you with a not so well known book of Tomi Ungerer’s with wonderfully absurd and fun questions.