LONDON—Judith Kerr, the author of “The Tiger Who Came to Tea”, has died at the age of 95 after a short illness, her publisher said.
“It is with great sadness that we announce that Judith Kerr OBE, author and illustrator of The Tiger Who Came to Tea, When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, Mog the Forgetful Cat and many other classic children’s books, died at home yesterday aged 95 following a short illness,” HarperCollins said.
— HarperCollinsUK (@HarperCollinsUK) May 23, 2019
“Judith Kerr was a wonderful and inspiring person who was much loved by everyone at HarperCollins,” said Charlie Redmayne, CEO of publisher HarperCollins, according to the Press Association.
“She was a brilliantly talented artist and storyteller who has left us an extraordinary body of work.”
Born in Berlin, Kerr’s family left Germany in 1933 to escape the rise of the Nazi Party and came via Paris to England.
The family’s struggle to get by as impoverished refugees in Paris and then wartime London formed the subject of Kerr’s autobiographical trilogy that started with “When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit”, published in 1971.
The book has been translated into many languages and taught to school children as an introduction to a dark chapter of history. It won the prestigious Youth Book Prize in Germany, and in 1993 a school was named after Kerr in her native Berlin.
In an interview with Reuters in 2015, Kerr said that as she had got older she had thought more often about the Jewish children from her generation who perished in the Holocaust, and of the lives they might have lived.
“If you’ve got a life that so many people didn’t have, you can’t waste it,” she told Reuters.
Redmayne said Kerr loved life, people and parties. “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,” he said.
“Time spent in her company was one of life’s great privileges and I am so grateful to have known her.”
As a young woman, Kerr worked as a textile designer, art teacher and scriptwriter at the BBC, before taking time out from work to raise her and her husband Tom’s two children.
It was while looking after her daughter Tacy when she was a toddler that Kerr made up the story of a little girl and her mother who are having tea at home when a friendly tiger arrives unannounced, eats all the food and then leaves, never to return.
“Talk the tiger,” Tacy would often say, and years later, when both of Kerr’s children were at school and she was wondering what to do next, she hit upon the idea of a book.
“The Tiger Who Came To Tea” came out in 1968 to critical acclaim and has been a bestseller ever since, with “Mog the Forgetful Cat” following in 1970, the first of a long series.
Kerr was often asked whether the tiger has a hidden meaning, and some people have suggested that it might represent Hitler or the Nazis, invading her home and stealing her possessions. Kerr dismissed this, saying the idea for the tiger simply came from a visit to the zoo with Tacy, and the creature was harmless.
“I never think about telling small children what to think,” she told Reuters with a grin in 2015.
By Kate Holton and Guy Faulconbridge
The CNN Wire contributed to this article.