This book is the cat’s whiskers

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOODPOSTER - JBJ RE­PORTER

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

Ju­dith Kerr’s Crea­tures: A Cel­e­bra­tion of Her Life and Work.

MOGGY MAD: Nine­tyyear-old Ju­dith Kerr, and be­low the cover of her book,

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