Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Three Robbers

The Three Robbers 
Tomi Ungerer ~ Atheneum, 1962

Have been checking out every Ungerer I can get my hands on from the library to give them a test ride before I splurge for my own copies, and I have to say, The Three Robbers is my new fave. My son flips for the mystery and the darkness and the fact that these villains/heroes wield an axe, a blunderbuss and a pepper-blower. He is totally entranced by a story that is on one hand deliciously foreboding and yet, at the flick of a page, calm and safe and wondrous. My absolute favorite kind of story!

Once upon a time there were three fierce robbers. They went about hidden under large black capes and tall black hats.... In the dark of night, they walked the roads, searching for victims.

Yummy, right?

They terrified everyone. Women fainted. Brave men ran. Dogs fled.

As with all things Ungerer, don't get too comfortable with your perceptions, as all things that seem rotten on the outside are sure to have a heart of gold. When the trio accidentally plunder the carriage of an orphan girl, they fall in love and learn to use their powers of evil and their vast riches for good.

Ungerer's psyche fascinates me to no end. I will admit here that he's been added to my children's book crushes... but not in the sweet, snugly way I love Jack Kent and Roy McKie... He's way too subversive for that. Let's just say even at the ripe old age of 78, I wouldn't turn him away if he came a-calling. (Wink, wink.) But hey, this blog is rated G right, so back to business.

The Three Robbers... three thumbs up. And please, check out the Weston Woods video and scans of the French version on my new favorite book blog. Not to be missed. (Reissued by Phaidon in 2009.)

Also by:
The Hat
The Mellops Strike Oil
Seeds and More Seeds
Moon Man
Zarelda's Ogre
Orlando The Brave Vulture
Christmas Eve at the Mellops'
I Am Papa Snap and These Are My Favorite No Such Stories
The Beast of Monsieur Racine
Book of Various Owls


  1. I recommend Ungerer's "Zeralda's Ogre" - it was my favourite book as a child. My mum still has it somewhere, falling apart and taped back together from being read so often.

  2. I love how the robbers look like 3 witches a cauldron (double, double, toil and trouble!).
    Great book!

  3. If you ever get the chance, see the WONDERFUL animated version of The Three Robbers put out by Weston Woods some years ago ( saw it on a Halloween/spooky story VHS collection, might be at your local library). Beautiful! I love Tomi Ungerer to pieces, and I want to make a Crictor statue in my yard (once I get a yard).

  4. oh Tomi Ungerer is right up there in my top five illustrators. He's an under estimated GOD of children's book illustration.

  5. You should read (or see the Weston Woods video of) The Beast of Monsieur Racine next! :)

  6. This is a TERRIFIC book, probably one of Ungerer's absolute best (in my opinion). It was out of print for a long time and I admit my preschool students and I were practically hysterical with excitement when we learned the book was going to be reprinted and released again. That excitement was quickly dashed though when we read and compared the original copy (one I'd purchased on ebay) to the new book and saw that they'd made some changes to the original story!

    the changes aren't drastic, they skip a word or two here and it was a great lesson for the kids about what editing is and how things change over time (the spiderman of my youth is not the spiderman of theirs). But we all agreed the original was better.