Judith Kerr was a most unexpected woman – just as unexpected as the visitor in her most beloved book, who rang the bell and interrupted a little girl's tea time.
The visitor was a tiger and after politely inviting himself to the kitchen, he went to eat the family outside and even ate & # 39; all the pappies of beer & # 39; and & # 39; all the water in the tap & # 39; on.
However, the Tiger Who Came To Tea has a happy ending. . . and so, despite all expectations, the story of Judith Kerr himself, who died yesterday at the age of 95 after a short illness.
After a childhood of terror and death threats in Nazi Germany, she escaped to Britain and eventually became one of the most successful children's illustrators in the world.
Judith Kerr, author of The Tiger Who Came To Tea, died on Thursday at the age of 95 after a short illness
Even people who have opened a picture book for less than 50 years will probably know her work – she came up with Mog, the cat with the accident who played three years ago in a famous Sainsbury & # 39; s Christmas TV ad.
Her death provoked a stream of tribute from stars growing up with her books. Author Philip Pullman called her & # 39; a nice person, a creator of delight & # 39 ;.
The bestselling children's writer David Walliams described her as & # 39; a legendary author and illustrator whose stories delighted millions of people around the world, not least me and my son. Her books will last forever. & # 39;
But she hardly survived to write one of them. Her father, a columnist of the Jewish newspaper in Weimar Germany and a frank critic of the Nazis, had to flee Berlin with his family in 1933.
When Hitler came to power, Alfred Kerr was expelled from his work and Josef Goebbels ordered his books to be burned.
Judith, a nine-year-old child at the time, did not realize how desperate their condition was until much later when she found a letter that her desperate father had written to a friend.
The book is about a tiger who, after politely speaking in the kitchen, locked the family home and outdoors and even & # 39; all the pappies of beer & # 39; and & # 39; all the water in the tap & # 39; swallowed.
After a childhood of terror threat in Nazi Germany, Judith (photo six) escaped to Britain and eventually became one of the most successful children's illustrators in the world
Her mother Julia, much younger than Alfred, was constantly talking about suicide, he said – and from & # 39; take the children & # 39 ;.
They escaped to Switzerland and then to France, but Alfred still found it impossible to earn a living because he was Jewish and could not write well in French.
Out of desperation, he wrote a film script in which he proposed the rise of Napoleon from the point of view of the mother of the dictator, and sent it to celebrated filmmaker Alexander Korda.
Although the film was never made, the £ 1,000 paid by Korda for the rights allowed the Kerrs to travel to Britain and security.
These traumatic years have made a deep impression on Judith, who has never forgotten how political unrest looked through the eyes of a child. On the day she and her older brother Michael had to flee Berlin, she was told that she could only take one toy with her.
Judith chose a woolly dog that she recently had. It wasn't long before she regrettably regretted her decision – she had left a pink fabric bunny that was her favorite comforter of the youth bed.
Her sense of injustice against the loss lasted her entire life: when she wrote the first part of her autobiography in 1971, she called it when Hitler stole Pink Rabbit.
She won a scholarship at the Central School of Arts and Crafts, where she met lifelong friend Peggy Fortnum – who then went to draw Paddington
By that time she was already eagerly drawing. Her oldest memory was that she was sitting on a sidewalk of two, ignoring the children playing around her and absorbing a puddle of oil with a stick, fascinated by the iridescent colors.
A few years later she presented her mother with a drawing of the Garden of Eden. A figure in a beret stood under one of the trees. & # 39; That's God & # 39 ;, Judith explained.
Even as a little girl, she had the gift of making improbable images that somehow made perfect sense.
As a teenager she worked for the Red Cross. On May 8, 1945, to celebrate the end of the war, she went out with a sketchbook & # 39; and drew everything into view, including someone on a lamppost. You couldn't believe it was really over. & # 39;
She won a scholarship at the Central School of Arts and Crafts, where she met lifelong friend Peggy Fortnum – who was going to make Paddington.
Her first success came when she won first prize in an art competition every other day in 1949.
She spent the money on a trip to Spain to see Goya's masterpieces, and then got a job as a teacher at a university in Lime Grove, close to the BBC studios that she would sometimes visit to go to the canteen to eat.
There she met a writer, Nigel & # 39; Tom & # 39; Kneale, and fell in love almost immediately: & # 39; There was full recognition & # 39 ;, she said.
Judith (photo of the BookTrust Lifetime Achievement Award) loved working and always said that her biggest fear became too old to write
Kneale was much in demand, the creator of the sci-fi scientist Quatermass, and he helped Judith get work as a script editor.
They married at the Chelsea Register Office in 1954: & # 39; There were two doors & # 39 ;, she remembered with love. & # 39; One was the foot clinic, so you had to be careful where you went. & # 39;
They bought a flat in Kensington and painted all the walls in bright colors, as a protest against the greyness of time – & # 39; nothing to eat but dried egg, but you were not killed and you could work on anything you liked & # 39;
When her children Tacy and Michael were born, she tried her hand at designing textiles, selling patterns for children to John Lewis & # 39; s. To entertain her toddlers, she started making up stories.
Their favorite was the hungry & # 39; tiger who came to tea & # 39 ;, who they wanted to hear over and over. & # 39; Talk to the tiger! & # 39; Tacy would demand. Her favorite part was the end, when Dad came home and the family & # 39; in the dark & # 39; hijacked for fish and chips.
Many parents might assume that the appeal of this image was in a takeaway meal. Judith, with her instinctive understanding of the mind of a child, saw that the real excitement was the thought of an adventure in the dark.
She drew the illustrations, based the father on her husband, and then faced three years of rejection from publishers before the story was published in 1968.
It has since been subjected to intense analysis by readers trying to understand his magical attraction.
The children's laureate Michael Rosen drew parallels, in a 2013 BBC documentary about Judith Kerr, between the book and the author's life: she was no stranger, he pointed to the knock on the door, the monster that tore up her world, and the late night flight with her family.
Newsnight's Emily Maitlis admitted on Twitter yesterday that she asked the author & # 39; if the tiger symbolized the revolution of the 1960s in which normal mores and suburban life were startled by this wild and exotic creature & # 39; ;
Judith's patient response to these wild theories was always the same. The tiger was just a tiger. It was hungry and wanted its tea.
Her next book was based on the family cat, Mog: & # 39; I have always longed for a cat, because as a refugee I could not have one. I never wanted to draw them, but they kept doing ridiculous things. & # 39;
Mog came to play the lead in more than a dozen stories and the writer was convinced that her pet enjoyed fame: & # 39; Mog always sat down with me while I was working. She pushed the brush with her nose. But she only did it when I was writing about her. & # 39;
From 1970 the adventures of the cat included encounters with babies & rabbits and a trip to the vet – everyday events, magically made by the creepy instinct of Judith Kerr for a child's perspective.
Her publishers were horrified in 2002 when she presented the last book in the series, Goodbye, Mog. Ready for a final adventure, the old cat lies down: & # 39; Mog thought: I could sleep forever & # 39 ;. And she did. & # 39;
Judith was convinced that children would understand and that the story would help some readers to cope with the death of her own pets.
She was right, although she often missed the character and was happy to bring her back in 2015 for Mog & # 39; s Christmas Calamity, a computer animation story for Sainsbury & # 39; s festive campaign.
Her husband died in 2006, after 52 years of marriage. & # 39; Happy marriages make stronger widows & # 39 ;, she said phlegmatically.
Even in her nineties, Judith Kerr liked to work, always saying that her greatest fear became too old to write. Nothing could stop her – after breaking a wrist, she cheerfully stated that it didn't matter because she held her brush in the other hand.
Every morning she skilfully climbed the stairs to her top-floor studio and spent the morning at work before taking a break for a martini lunch – to maintain her sugar levels, she enjoyed pretending. Then it was back to the donkey before noon.
The thought of taking it easy never occurred to her. While she said: & # 39; If you have a life that so many people didn't have, you can't waste it. & # 39;
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