Beloved children's author and illustrator Judith Kerr passed away in May 2019 at the age of 95. Through her words and drawings she was the creator of many classic children's books including The Tiger Who Came to Tea and Mog the Forgetful Cat. We wanted to not only pay tribute to her books which we've read and loved since we were children but also to her truly remarkable life. Here are ten facts about the late Judith Kerr...
1. Judith Kerr was born in Berlin in 1924 to Jewish parents.
Her father was a writer and theatre critic and her mother was a composer.
2. Judith and her family were forced to flee Germany in 1933 after the Nazi party rose to power.
Judith's father, Alfred Kerr, publicly criticised the Nazi party and as they started to gain power, he was tipped off by a policeman that his passport was about to seized. After hearing this news he fled Germany with Judith, her mother and brother following shortly after. The day the nine-year-old Judith fled was the very same day Hitler took control of Germany in 1933.
3. The family travelled as refugees to Switzerland, France and before finally settling in Britain.
The family lived in London through the Blitz whilst Alfred Kerr's books were burned back in Nazi Germany. After leaving nearly all their possessions in Berlin, Judith recalled how the family struggled to get by. Her mother worked various secretarial jobs and her father sent witty letters to the BBC to make money.
4. Judith loved art all her life and her drawings were some of the few possessions that her mother took with them when they left Germany.
She went on to attend art college in London. However, she was about to drop out until her father convinced her to stay and pursue her artistic dreams.
5. She worked in the Red Cross during the Second World War and married the writer Nigel Kneale in 1954.
Judith and Nigel settled into a house in London in 1962 and had two children together. They also got a pet cat called Mog (whose fictional counter-part would go on to be one of Judith's best-loved characters).
6. When it came time for her children to start learning to read Judith was unhappy with the lack of children's books available for new readers so she wrote her own, this became The Tiger Who Came to Tea.
Judith was always been surprised about the success of The Tiger Who Came to Tea but, in the 50 years since its publication, it has never been out of print!
7. Judith wrote a partially autobiographical series about her experiences of fleeing Nazi Germany as a child. The series starts with When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit.
Judith was inspired to write the books after her son claimed he understood what she went through after watching The Sound of Music. She wanted to write a series to allow older children to learn about Nazi Germany and the Jewish persecution as she experienced it and this incredible series is still regularly used in schools to introduce this topic to students.
8. She wrote 17 Mog books across five decades!
Mog is a forgetful cat who gets herself and her family into all manner of silly situations.
9. To celebrate her 90th birthday, Judith's publishers asked her to write an autobiography, the result was a brilliant book called Judith Kerr's Creatures which was published in 2013.
10. In 2012 she was awarded an OBE for her contributions to children's literature and Holocaust education.
After her husband passed away in 2006, Judith threw herself into her writing and drawing and continued to work on new books right up until her death in 2019.
Judith Kerr leaves a strong legacy behind. Her books have been enjoyed for generations and will be shared with future generations for years to come too. She will always be regarded as one of the world's best storytellers and we're greatly saddened by her loss.