Judith Kerr dies aged 95; tributes paid to Tiger Who Came to Tea author

Judith Kerr dies aged 95; tributes paid to Tiger Who Came to Tea author

Judith Kerr, illustrator and writer of children’s favourites including The Tiger Who Came to Tea, has died at the age of 95.

Kerr died at home yesterday (Wednesday 22nd May) following a short illness, her publisher HarperCollins said.

She was best known for her first book, The Tiger Who Came to Tea, which began as a bedtime story for her daughter. First published in 1968, it has since sold more than five million copies. Its 50th anniversary last year was marked with a series of special editions and a celebration of Kerr's birthday at the Savoy hotel.

Kerr also wrote and illustrated the successful Mog series and the semi-autobiographical Out of the Hitler Time trilogy. Her new book The Curse of the School Rabbit (HarperCollins Children’s Books) is due out on 27th June.

She was named Illustrator of the Year at the British Book Awards earlier this month.

Kerr grew up in Berlin but fled the Nazis with her family in 1933, arriving in London in 1936. Among the few possessions she left Germany with were some of her early drawings. Her book When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit was a retelling of her family's escape.

She studied at the Central School of Art and later worked as a scriptwriter for the BBC, marrying the celebrated screenwriter Nigel Kneale in 1954. She left the BBC to look after their two children, Matthew and Tacy, who inspired her first book.

Ann-Janine Murtagh, executive publisher HarperCollins 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. My thoughts at this time are with her children, Matthew and Tacy, and her grandchildren."

Charlie Redmayne, HarperCollins c.e.o, said: “Judith Kerr was a wonderful and inspiring person who was much loved by everyone at HarperCollins. She was a brilliantly talented artist and storyteller who has left us an extraordinary body of work. 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.”

Kerr has sold 4.02 million books for £20.84m since 1998 alone and was also the oldest-ever author to go to number one in the Nielsen BookScan era, aged 92, with Mog’s Christmas Calamity in 2015.

Across all editions The Tiger Who Came to Tea has sold 1.61 million copies in the Nielsen era, and the entire Mog series has sold 1.84 million.

© Eliz Huseyin