Judith Kerr OBE is a German-born British writer and illustrator who has created both enduring picture books such as the Mog series and The Tiger Who Came To Tea and acclaimed novels for older readers.
She was born on 14 June 1923 in Berlin but escaped from Hitler’s Germany with her parents and brother in 1933 when she was nine years old. Her father was a drama critic and a distinguished writer whose books were burned by the Nazis. The family passed through Switzerland and France before arriving finally in England in 1936.
Among the possessions left behind was a pink rabbit which had been Judith’s comforter before it was displaced in her affections by a woolly dog.
“We were allowed to take one toy each, and I decided on the dog.”
She never saw Pink Rabbit again, but neither did she forget it. Years later, when she wrote the first of three novelised accounts of her childhood, she called it When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit.
Humour is central to Kerr’s world, though it comes shadowed by an awareness that reality is often not funny at all.
Kerr’s mother was much younger than her husband, a child of wealth and privilege who had written two operas but had never cooked for herself. She is depicted in Pink Rabbit struggling with scrambled eggs and valiantly attempting to knit.
Judith Kerr went to eleven different schools, worked in the Red Cross during the war, and won a scholarship to the Central School of Arts and Crafts in 1945. Since then she has worked as an artist, a BBC television scriptwriter and, for the past thirty years, as author and illustrator of children’s books.
Her three autobiographical novels are based on her early wandering years (which against all the odds she greatly enjoyed), her adolescence in London during the war, and finally on a brief return to Berlin as a young married woman.
The stories have been internationally acclaimed and to the author’s considerable satisfaction, have done particularly well in Germany where they are sometimes used as an easy introduction to a difficult period of Germany history.
The Mog books were based on Kerr’s own cat. She gave the Thomas children her own children’s second names, while their surname comes from her husband Nigel Kneale’s middle name – he is always known as Tom in the family.
When the first Mog died and was duly replaced, Kerr found new stories emerging from her observations of the newcomers’ behaviour. Years later the ninth incarnation is a handsome white and brindle beast called Katinka who has demonstrated her inner Mog by making friends with a fox.
Judith has a daughter who is a designer and a son who is a novelist. She lives in London.
You can find out more about Judith on Wikipedia at: Judith Kerr.
Judith’s Books Reviewed
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