This book is the cat’s whiskers
JUST when you think children’s books cannot get any better, something like this comes along: Judith Kerr’s Creatures: A Celebration of Her Life and Work.
The book was published to mark the 90th birthday of the children’s writer and illustrator last month. A form of autobiography, it has 176 large, beautiful nostalgia- filled pages, with Kerr’s drawings illustrating her life story.
Nine years old in 1933, Kerr had to flee Germany with her parents and brother because her father, a journalist, had criticised the Nazis. She later told the story in three novels, collectively titled Out of the Hitler Time, the most famous of which is When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit.
In the story, a little girl, Anna, is forced to leave behind her toys.
When her big brother grumbles that Hitler is probably playing with their Snakes and Ladders, Anna replies: “And snuggling my pink rabbit!”
This new book is a factual account of the author’s life from that time on, and fills in the historical details that the young Judith/ Anna could not have known.
The drawings from this period, which were saved by her mother, are of Dutch dancers, French market stalls, beaches and angels.
“Through all this,” Kerr writes, “my parents managed to make my brother and me feel that it was all a great adventure… I’m told I said ‘Isn’t it lovely being a refugee!’ “
After moving to England when she was 12, Kerr studied at the Central School of Art. She married Nigel Kneale in 1954. Her first published picture book for children, The Tiger Who Came to Tea, was written in 1968 for her children Matthew and Tacy, who found all their other children’s books “boring”.
She told The Independent on Sunday in 2009: “I realised, having learnt to read in German, which is dead easy because it’s all phonetic, that these poor creatures were having to learn this awful, awful language to read. I mean it’s a wonderful language. But hard to learn.
“The Mog books were very much inspired by Dr Seuss in that I used as few words as possible, used them again and again and made it funny.” The Tiger Who Came to Tea sold nearly 5 million copies and has been made into a successful stage show.
Her other books include Mog the Forgetful Cat ( and 15 other Mog titles), The Great Granny Gang, When Willy Went to the Wedding and One Night in the Zoo.
Judith Kerr’s bookcase contains works by members of her family: her father Alfred Kerr was a journalist whose books were burnt by the Nazis; her son Matthew Kneale won a prize for English Passengers; and her daughter Tacy worked on the special effects for the Harry Potter films.
Judith Kerr’s Creatures is published by HarperCollins Children’s Books. – The Independent on Sunday
MOGGY MAD: Ninetyyear-old Judith Kerr, and below the cover of her book,