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TOMI by Tomi Ungerer Kirkus Star


A Childhood Under the Nazis

by Tomi Ungerer

Age Range: 11 - 15

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 1-57098-163-9

One of the éminences grises of children’s literature recasts memoirs originally published in French and German for this lively, sardonic account of the multiple occupations of his native Alsace in WWII. Ungerer views those “absurd and tragic times” from both adult and childish perspectives, recalling his mother’s taste for practical jokes and unfailing ability to charm her way around the demands of officialdom, describing the radical changes imposed on every aspect of daily life by the Nazis and the quiet, clever Alsatian resistance, regarding all of the armies, including the “gallinaceous” French and aloof, insensitive American, as invaders—if sometimes welcome ones. Due in part to his own family’s habit of never throwing anything away, and in part to gifts from readers of the foreign-language editions, the author supplies a mind-boggling array of illustrations: photos, postcards, cartoons, advertisements, stamps, posters, old school assignments, childhood drawings, propaganda leaflets, souvenirs, and more, many reproduced in full-color, nearly all at least partly translated in explanatory captions. Ungerer does not deny the prison camps, anti-Semitism, and general terror of the experience, but serves up more tributes here than indictments—and by looking for the humor, or at least the irony, in every situation, he effectively demonstrates the triumph of spirit over circumstance. (Memoir. 11-15)