By: Tomi Ungerer
Published: September 16, 2020
Publisher: Phaidon Press
Children’s Dystopian Fiction
I was not familiar with Tomi Ungerer’s children’s books before reading NONSTOP, his final children’s picture book. His bestselling book, THE THREE ROBBERS has sold over 2.5 million copies. He was also awarded the Hans Christian Anderson Award for children’s literature in 1998. His experience of living in France during WWII as a child has influenced his works.
This story, as I mentioned above, is a dystopian fiction picture book. So, this won’t be for every child. But, I can promise a happy ending. I wasn’t sure what to expect in a children’s picture book that has a dark and doom type of theme. But, even though it was haunting, it was also hopeful and a story of kindness.
Everyone has left Earth for the moon. All, except Vasco. We don’t know why Vasco is left behind, but he isn’t alone, he has his shadow. His shadow helps lead him away from danger to safety. The shadow also leads him to be helpful to creatures that he comes across along the way. Eventually, Vasco is led to a young creature, Poco, who needs someone to care for him.
The illustrations are dark and desolation is clear as Vasco travels through the city. But, each time there is danger, Vasco is able to make it to safety….until the next obstacle comes along. I feel as if the author was likely knowing he was near the end of his own life and also reminiscing a bit about his own childhood during WWII. Even though the ending is hopeful, there is quite a bit of darkness to get through before the end. As an adult, I can see the point of his story.
Personally, I can’t think of a child that I would be comfortable reading this book to. But, fans of Tomi Ungerer might find this book to be one to add to their collection since it was his last picture book. I don’t think most younger children would understand the author’s focus on pollution, world-ending, and why there are creatures or aliens among the one final human left on Earth. Even though it is a picture book, it’s definitely written for an older audience. It is marketed for ages 5-8, but I don’t necessarily agree with that age recommendation.