Judith Kerr’s Creatures: A celebration of her life and work

I am struggling to finish books at the moment, leaving them unfinished with very few having the power to keep me going to the end. So this book was a delight. I have always loved Kerr’s books, picture books more than her novels, with particular love for Mog at Christmas. Sainsbury’s did the book justice when they created a christmas advert out of it.

And if you look very closely, you can even see Judith Kerr in it.

The Creatures in the book are Judith’s family and friends and whilst the writing feels a bit stilted, I loved the journey from her drawings as a child through to her book illustrations. It shows that by the age of 12 she had developed a style of drawing, which went on to evolve. It is equally amazing that the drawings of the young Judith survived considering her fleeing from Germany, Belgium and France to finally ending up in Britain. It is also a testimoney to the idea that if you draw and draw and draw you will get better at it. And, she did!

At one point she became a textile designer as a way of attending art school and it is interesting that the fabrics are very of their time whilst the books she wrote are timeless.

My favourite picture in the whole book is the picture from Mog’s Bad Things when Mog has a pee on Mr Thomas’s chair. The shape of the back of the cat is so accurate and the look on her face is priceless. There is also the lovely, lovely story about the death of Mog, Goodbye Mog with The Guardian even writing an obituary for her.

Mog was tired. She was dead tired.

Her head was dead tired.

Her paws were dead tired.

Even her tail was dead tired.

Mog thought, “I want to sleep forever.”

And so she did.

But a little bit of her stayed awake

to see what would happen next.


Apparently, it was the parents who cried rather than the children when the book was read.

The other book that people will remember is The Tiger Who Came to Tea. According to Kerr the story came about because they often visited the zoo and her daughter loved the tigers. One day they were bored wth nothing to do so Judith made up a story abut a tiger coming to tea and this was refined over the years that it was told and retold. Eventually, it became a book. But of course readers bring their own interpretation to books and often the tiger is seen as a threat that visits the family, who causes a fair bit of disruption – it drinks all the water in the tap – and then leaves and things right themselves eventually. When you consider Judith’s own background as a child, it is hard not to see the tiger as a threat. He is a friendly-looking tiger in the book but he is still a tiger. An insatiable one that not even the Mum in the book can say no to.

There is even Robbie Williams singing a song for an animation of the book called Hey Tiger.

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