Judith Kerr was born in Berlin, but left Germany with her family in 1933 to escape the Nazis. They arrived in England in 1936, having spent the intervening years in Switzerland and France.
There she met her husband, the celebrated screenwriter Nigel Kneale, and they had two children together; Tacy and Matthew.
It was to Tacy, at bedtime, that Judith first used to tell the story of the Tiger.
“She was rather critical of my other stories but used to say, ‘Talk the tiger!’ So, when she and her brother were both at school and I had more time, I thought I would make it into a picture book.”
That picture book was sent to Collins to become The Tiger Who Came to Tea and the rest, as they say, is history. A success from its first publication in 1968, it was called “a dazzling first book” by Antonia Fraser in one of its first reviews, and has been beloved by both critics and children ever since. Countless generations have delighted in the story of a little girl called Sophie and her extraordinary teatime guest; it has sold more than ten million copies, and is still a bestseller after fifty years.
Judith has continued to write and illustrate many more bestsellers since that day – from her second book, introducing the world to the iconic Mog the Forgetful Cat, to her semi-autobiographical Out of the Hitler Time trilogy, telling the story of her family’s flight from Nazi Germany and subsequent lives as refugees in Europe, before their settlement in England.
Judith’s success continues with each book. In December 2015 Mog’s Christmas Calamity was published in association with Sainsbury’s and was the subject of their Christmas advertising campaign, raising over 1 million pounds for Save the Children’s literacy appeal. In the week of publication it was the fastest selling book in the industry, reaching No. 1 in the overall book charts and holding that position for four weeks. That made it the bestselling picture book of 2015, and Judith the oldest ever author to hold a No. 1 spot in the charts! Judith’s latest bestselling book is Katinka’s Tail which as the Mog books were in the past, is inspired by her most recent feline companion.
Judith was awarded an OBE in 2012 for services to children’s literature and holocaust education, and was also awarded the Booktrust Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016. She continues to write and illustrate to this day and will celebrate her 95th birthday in 2018 with a brand-new book and the anniversary publishing of her first and most well-known title – an occasion warranting the most golden of celebrations for both an incredible icon and her famous creations.
Author photograph © Eliz Hüseyin Photography 2013