Goodbye and thank you Judith!

Primary Times celebrates the life and works of Judith Kerr OBE, author and illustrator of The Tiger Who Came to Tea

“A brilliantly talented artist and storyteller who gave the world an extraordinary body of work” – a sentiment shared by Judith Kerr’s publisher and echoed with love by generations of teachers, librarians, parents and children the world over, and all at Primary Times, on the announcement of the author and illustrator’s death in May, aged 95.

The Tiger Who Came to Tea, which has never been out of print since its publication in 1968, tells the story of Sophie, her mum and a furry, stripy tiger who pops by for afternoon tea. Believed to have been inspired by a visit to the zoo made by Judith Kerr and her young daughter, the tale has been adapted for TV to air at Christmas on Channel 4. Schools contacted us to pay tribute to Judith at the news of her death. Including Marta Correia, head teacher at Judith Kerr primary school, in London, who spoke of the incredible storytelling sessions and motivational talks Judith offered her pupils.

“We are devastated to learn of the passing of our patron, Judith Kerr. She was a wonderful writer and illustrator, and a fantastically generous, enthusiastic friend of our school community.”

“It has been such a privilege over the past six years to have been able to welcome Judith to JKPS on many occasions – to give incredible storytelling sessions and motivational talks to our children, and participate in school events. Judith’s warm and open outlook on life has become a central part of the school’s own personality. We’ll long remember and celebrate a wonderful friend.”

Judith Kerr also brought to life Mog, a lovable cat who among many adventures meets a baby, a bunny, a granny, has fun in the dark and the fog and visits the vet. Mog’s Christmas Calamity, published as part of Sainsburys’ Christmas campaign, raised over £1 million for Save the Children’s literacy campaign. Her new book, The Curse of the School Rabbit, is scheduled for publication by HarperCollins Children’s Books in June.

Head teacher, Rachel Cross of St Mary’s Primary School in Slough, sent a heartfelt message, saying: “It is with much sadness that we heard of the loss of a beloved author and favourite of children, parents and staff over many generations. Thank you, Judith Kerr, for the most special of children’s books.”

Alastair Thomas, headmaster at The Manor Prep School in Abingdon said: “Judith Kerr is an author who features heavily in the memory of so many of us who enjoyed her wonderful storytelling both as children and then again as parents or grandparents. Her books were regular features at bedtime with her language and description enlightening so many lives. She is a true inspiration and her memory will live on for many a year to come through her books which I suspect may be timeless.”

Librarian Helen Mastrantone at the Dragon School, in Oxford, highlighted the books When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit and The Great Granny Gang, saying she could not remember her life without Judith Kerr in it. “She is surely irreplaceable in the world of children’s literature. Although perhaps less well known, one of our favourites is The Great Granny Gang, in which a stalwart network of grannies surprises the local community with their determination to clamp down on petty crime, using an amazing array of niche skills. I am particularly proud that my not-yet-two year-old can identify a pneumatic drill and that he has only ever seen one in the capable hands of a feminist granny. I credit Judith Kerr with this triumph of representation and sheer picture book pleasure.”

Charlie Redmayne, HarperCollins CEO said: ‘Judith Kerr was a wonderful and inspiring person who was much loved by everyone at HarperCollins. Always understated and very, very funny, Judith loved life and loved people - and particularly she loved a party. Beautifully dressed and with a smile on her face she would light up the room and would always be one of the last to leave. Time spent in her company was one of life’s great privileges and I am so grateful to have known her.’

Remembering Judith Kerr OBE • 5 million+ copies sold of The Tiger Who Came To Tea • £1 million rasied for Save the Children’s literacy campaign Mog’s Christmas Calamity • An archive spanning 70+ years of illustrations housed at the National Centre for Children’s Books • Illustrator of the Year at the British Book Awards 2019

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