Judith Kerr’s father, the theatre critic Alfred Kerr, was a prominent opponent of Adolf Hitler and one of the many whose books were burned in public during the early 1930s. Unsurprisingly, the family decided that was a good time to leave Germany. Arriving in England, Judith became a Red Cross worker and an artist, working on her husband Tom Kneale’s groundbreaking The Quatermass Experiment.
However, it wasn’t until her own children were starting to read that she began writing books. Her most famous works are the 17-piece Mog series about an incident-prone cat, and 1968’s The Tiger Who Came to Tea, about a big cat who interrupts a girl’s tea and proceeds to eat everything in the house. Some have suggested the tiger represents the sexual liberation of the 1960s, others say it symbolises the banality of evil that was the Nazi citizens of Judith’s childhood. Kerr insisted it was just about a tiger.
Fittingly, for a woman who broke ground for children’s books by having Mog drop dead at the end of his literary career, Kerr’s death came out of nowhere. She was writing into her late 90s and just a week prior to her death had been awarded the title of Illustrator of the Year at the British Book Awards.