Kids Book Review: The Tiger Who Came To Tea, by Judith Kerr

tigerJudith Kerr is one of my favourite children’s authors although she seems to be little known in the United States.  Perhaps her most famous work is one I have actually never read: When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, a semi-autobiographical book about Kerr’s family’s flight from Germany to escape Nazi persecution.  I am familiar with her picture books, including When Willy Went To The Wedding, a lovely story about how it is NOT Willie’s fault his cats, dog, hamster, frog, and even eventually goldfish wreak havoc at his sister’s wedding.  The Mog books about Mog the cat are also good, our favourite here being Mog and Bunny.  But of all her stories my personal favourite as a child, and now as a Mum is The Tiger Who Came to Tea.

The Tiger Who Came to Tea tells the story of what happens when Sofie answers a knock at the door to find a very large, very well spoken Tiger who says, “Excuse me, but I’m very hungry, do you think I could have tea with you?”  Naturally Sofie’s Mum knows the polite thing to do is invite him in.  Children will love listening and looking at the colourful pictures as Tiger systematically works his way through the tea things and then into the kitchen eating in big mouthfuls “OWP!”  All of Kerr’s stories are gentle and warmhearted without being dull and this one is no exception.

What has struck me in the years since I began to read this story, not as a child but as a Mummy like Sofie’s , is that this is also a story for us.  It is a story of how at the end of the day you can look around, find that everything is a mess, the children haven’t had their bath, and think “I’ve got nothing for Daddy’s supper.” Sometimes it feels like a Tiger didn’t just drop by, he moved in!  It’s the story of how there can always be a perfectly good excuse to put on your coats and go out to a café for dinner.  Now when Daddy comes home from a long day’s work to find no dinner, we tell him the Tiger came to tea today.  He understands.

(Gussie says: look out for the Tiger on the way to the café.  He is in disguise)

All pictures and quotes from: Judith Kerr.The Tiger Who Came To Tea. Humen, Dongguan, China: Candlewick Press, 2009.

Available in various formats on Amazon.


Filed under Literature, Motherhood

4 responses to “Kids Book Review: The Tiger Who Came To Tea, by Judith Kerr

  1. Deb Durocher

    Cait- I had to do a double take when I read this story! I saved three boxes of kids books in case we ever have grandchildren. 😄 One of our kids favourite books came from my Mum. She was a children’s librarian and frequently sent them books that the library no longer wanted. It was published sometime before India’s independence I think. It was called The Tiger in the Teapot and it was about a colonial family who were getting ready to serve Daddy his late evening “tea”. (It seemed everyone in the family had to get involved in serving Daddy his tea – the house clearly revolved around him!). As they took down the enormous teapot to make the tea – they discovered a tiger in it. They each tried everything possible to get the tiger to come out (including the twins threatening him with their cricket bats). Then the youngest came in the door from a birthday party she had been at. (I recall her wearing a pillbox hat with three cherries on top. She surveys the situation and tells him that “he is most welcome to stay in the teapot of course, but that she thinks his lovely long tail must be getting quite cramped in there. Would he not rather come out and join them for tea instead?” The tiger looks very pleased at this and jumps out saying “thank you very much – that would be lovely”! (Basically a variation on the theme of catching more flies with honey than with vinegar). I cannot tell you how many times I read that story and every time – it made me laugh. Thanks for the memory!

    • It is so great you have that saved. Every time I remember a book I loved in childhood I write it down on a list so I can hunt for it online. So many great books aren’t in print and I love sharing those memories from my childhood with my kids. Any grandkids you have will treasure grandma’s books from when their parents we’re young.

    • Also, another great thing about older books is the references to history that would just get forgotten. Like your book with the pill box hat. Just a little detail of fashion but a nice glimpse. In this book they reference grocer’s boys and milk men making deliveries.

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