Judith Kerr, author of The Tiger Who Came to Tea and When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, dies at 95

The writer, who left Germany with her family just before the Nazis came to power, delighted generations of children


Judith Kerr, the author of popular books including The Tiger Who Came to Tea and When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, has died at the age of 95.

Her publisher, Harper Collins, said she had died on Wednesday "after a short illness".

The Jewish writer and illustrator was born in Germany in 1923 to Alfred and Julia Kerr. Her father, who was a theatre critic, had openly criticised the Nazis during the Weimar Republic era.

In 1933, just before the Nazis came to power, the family left the country, travelling to Switzerland and then France before settling in England.  

She began publishing children’s books in her 40s, with her debut book, The Tiger Who Came to Tea, dreamt up to entertain her two children.

She would go on to publish dozens of other children’s books, including 18 featuring Mog the Cat, as well as a trilogy of semi-autobiographical novels about a family fleeing the Nazis, the “Out of Hitler Time” trilogy, of which When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit was the first volume.

A Red Cross volunteer during the war, she would subsequently become a BBC Television screenwriter, having been encouraged to apply for the job by screenwriter Nigel Kneale.

The two married in 1954, a marriage which lasted until his death in 2006.

In 2012, she received an OBE for services to children's literature and Holocaust education.

Ms Kerr kept writing well into her nineties, with her last book, Katinka’s Tail, published in 2017. Her first book, The Tiger Who Came to Tea, would remain her most popular, however, with 2018 seeing the millionth copy of the work sold. 

Ann-Janine Murtagh, executive publisher HarperCollins for children’s books said: ‘It has been the greatest honour and privilege to know and publish Judith Kerr for over a decade, though of course her history with HarperCollins goes back over 50 years.

"She came to visit our offices frequently – always bringing her books in person; often arriving on the number 9 bus and leaving us all full of laughter and in awe of her astonishing zest for life and absolute commitment to delivering the very best books for children.

"Her incisive wit and dry humour made her both excellent company and a joy to publish. She embraced life as one great big adventure and lived every day to the full.

"She was absolutely thrilled when I gave her the news that she had been named Illustrator of the Year earlier this month.

"Her characters and books have delighted generations of children and provided some of the first and fondest reading memories of childhood."

Olivia Marks-Woldman, chair of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, said Ms Kerr's books "helped a younger audience understand the horros of the Holocaust through a child's eyes".

She said HMDT had been "honoured" the author attended its events in recent years.

She is survived by her son, Matthew, and daughter, Tacy.

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