Judith Kerr: Beyond The Tiger Who Came to Tea

Collins author Judith Kerr may be best known in the UK for her classic children’s picture books The Tiger Who Came to Tea and Mog the Forgetful Cat, but she is also renowned for her powerful autobiographical novels about her childhood and young adulthood.

Kerr was born in Germany in 1923 when Hitler and the Nazi Party were rising to power. Her father was a famous writer who criticized the Nazis, and her family was forced to flee the country to avoid persecution. Kerr was only nine years old at the time. Leaving Germany in secret, they traveled across Switzerland, France, and then finally settled in Britain in 1936.

It was not until the 1960s, when Judith had children of her own, that she started to write for children. Kerr’s first book, The Tiger Who Came to Tea, began life as a story she would tell to her daughter. Illustrated with the author’s own inimitable watercolors and published by Collins in 1968, it became one of the most seminal picture books of all time and is still a bestseller today. Over the years, many other picture books followed, including those featuring the beloved title character of Mog the Forgetful Cat.

Kerr’s autobiographical works, meanwhile, are a set of beautifully measured accounts of her life in Berlin, Switzerland, Paris, and London between 1933 and 1956. When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit (1971) tells the unforgettable story of a Jewish family fleeing Germany before World War II. The Other Way Round, later reissued as Bombs on Aunt Dainty, describes the lives of the Kerr family as refugees in Britain during the war. In A Small Person Far Away, Kerr tells of briefly returning to Berlin in the mid-1950s to visit her mother and the difficulties faced when rediscovering a city slowly recovering from war.