Judith 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.