Tiger Who Came to Tea author Judith Kerr dies aged 95

The author and illustrator of more than 30 books, including Mog the Forgetful Cat and When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, kept working up to her death

Adi Bloom

Judith Kerr

Judith Kerr, beloved author and illustrator of more than 30 children’s books, including The Tiger Who Came To Tea, has died at the age of 95.

She died at home, after a short illness.

Ms Kerr published Tiger, her first book, when she was already in her forties. But she went on to write and illustrate more than 30 more books, including the much-loved Mog series, about the misadventures of a household cat.

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Ms Kerr was born into a Jewish family in Berlin in 1923. Among her most famous books is When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, her autobiographical account of fleeing 1930s Germany as a child.

Her father, Alfred Kerr, had been a journalist in pre-Reich Germany. In the years before Adolf Hitler seized power, Kerr senior made fun of the soon-to-be dictator repeatedly.

The family fled first to Switzerland, but the Swiss newspapers refused to employ Alfred Kerr, for fear of offending Hitler. So the Kerrs moved to Paris and, later, to London.

“Both my brother and I have always agreed that the childhood we had as a result of Hitler was infinitely better than it would have been if there’d been no Hitler,” Ms Kerr told Tes, in a 2017 interview. “We found it so interesting – all these different schools.”

Ms Kerr was an artist before becoming a writer. In fact, among the items that her mother packed as the family fled Germany were nine-year-old Judith’s drawings. These are now held at Seven Stories, the UK national centre for children’s books, in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

She wrote Tiger after a day at the zoo with her daughter, Tacy. It was initially intended simply to entertain Tacy and her brother, Matthew.

“I just think, look at that orange and those black stripes," she said to Tes of the tiger she and Tacy had seen together. "Isn’t it beautiful?

"But obviously it would be hungry because it was very large. If it came to tea, it would eat rather more than other visitors.”

She continued to write, right up to her death. Her latest – and last – book, The Curse of the School Rabbit, will be published in June.

She told Tes: “I would be miserable if I weren’t working. It means you get up in the morning, you have a plan. It’s something that pulls you along.”

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Adi Bloom

Adi Bloom is Tes comment editor

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