I’m trying my best to boycott Amazon this Christmas, but the following review of Christmas Eve at the Mellops by Tomi Ungerer was enough to persuade me to stuff a bit more cash in their stocking.
When the book arrived I was relieved to be able to put my censorship stickers away, as it turned out he was smoking nothing more than a healthy cigar. He does have a sneaky glass of something on the go though, which I sincerely hope is just Ribena, else my children turn out to be raging alcoholics.
Moral panic aside, the message of this book is actually rather lovely. Four young pigs each decide to surprise their father, Mr Mellops with a Christmas tree. On their return they’re dismayed to find that he’s already put one up, and so are left with four spare trees, which they try to offload on some deserving causes like the hospital, the orphanage and, yes, the local prison.
Then they meet a poor child sobbing in the street who takes them back to a home filled with the sick, depressed and destitute. The Mellops boys soon cheer them up with their trees and a wheelbarrow loaded with crystal meth – sorry – Christmas treats.
Tomi Ungerer has become something of a cult children’s author, but in the Sixties he was huge. He began drawing pictures of life under Nazi occupation in his home of Alsace. He moved to the States in the 1950s, becoming an ad man and finding success with his books about the Mellops and posters for the likes of Stanley Kubrick. But his outspoken left wing politics and an adult book called the Fornicon, showing people having sex with machines, landed him in hot water with the unimpressed American Library Association.
His work vanished from libraries and bookstores in the seventies. It was as if his books had been plastered over with the biggest sticker imainable. Happily Phaidon have been republishing his work allowing us to relive a memorable Christmas Eve at the Mellops.