Tomi Ungerer

What books did you read when you were a child?
A bit of everything. I was the youngest in the family so I inherited all my older brothers’ and sisters’ books. They were French and German books – Max and Moritz was my favourite, which is an illustrated German children’s story.

If you could be a storybook character who would you be?
I would say I’m half Max and half Moritz – they were two naughty young boys who played lots of pranks!

What is the best thing about reading?
Reading has been the most important thing in my life, right from the very beginning. Reading is the basis of thinking and imagination – you forget what you see on TV but you remember what you’ve read in books.

What is your all-time favourite book?
There’s no such thing! I couldn’t possibly choose one – there’s hundreds of books I love which I read again and again. All books are born equal.

Other than reading books what is the most important thing a parent can do to help develop their children’s communication skills?
Show enthusiasm and encourage their sense of curiosity – when a child asks a question, give them an answer that will make them want to learn more and more.

Play with words, teach them new silly words - show them that language is a game. Tell funny jokes and puns and get them to make up their own words and jokes.

Oh, and don’t forget to play Scrabble! It’s a fantastic game, especially if you don’t try to win – just play an open game and enjoy it.

How big a part did your parents play in encouraging your writing skills?
My father died when I was very young, and he left behind a huge library so I grew up around books. My mother, my older siblings and I always read aloud to each other in the evenings. My brothers and sisters were several years older than I was, so they could teach me to read and show me a lot of new words and books.

How do you encourage your children or grandchildren to read, what books do you enjoy reading with them?
I don’t limit them by reading books designed for their age level. I think it’s important to read books ahead of their age level and not limit their vocabulary - children love learning new words!

We also share the same books which is really important because we can then discuss them together.

Tomi Ungerer is a winner of the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Award for children’s illustration. His work is exhibited globally, and he has a museum entirely dedicated to his art and writing in Strasbourg, France. His bestselling book, The Three Robbers, has sold over 2.5 million copies worldwide. Tomi has written over 140 books, published in over 44 languages, and now lives in Ireland on a farm with his wife and son’s family. His newest book, A Treasury of 8 Books, is out now.

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