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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.

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Lessons In Walking On Water

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water.”  He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus; 30 but when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “O man of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Lately my son has been asking me to tell him about miracles.  I was running low on stories when my copy of Nothing Short of a Miracle, by Patricia Treece, arrived.  Perfect!  I thought. More material to share with JD!  I was also very interested in learning more about modern miracles, as it is easy to forget that such things still happen.  So I cracked open the book, ready to enjoy some great tales of God’s wonders.  I wasn’t really expecting what happened next.  The very first story hit me like a ton of bricks.  Without revealing too much thus taking away from the author’s powerful retelling for anybody who reads the book, the first miracle related involves desperate prayers for the health of a newborn.  Nuns, nurses and family at the hospital prayed through the night, asking for the intercession of the recently deceased Mother Frances Cabrini.  Even though I knew, given the book’ss title, that this story was going to have a happy ending, I found the account harrowing, imagining the state of mind of the mother and medical staff.  And by the end I had learned something about myself.  I don’t know if I would have been in that chapel all night.

 I don’t really pray for miracles often, not because I don’t believe in them, but because I don’t believe in them happening to me.  I’ve told myself I am uncomfortable testing God, but now I realize I’m frightened of testing myself.  Putting all my faith into asking for a miracle would potentially open me up to the shattering disappointment of it not being granted.  I don’t know if my faith could take it.  Now I understand faith is necessary and I do possess it and exercise it.  I understand that it is an act of the will, just as love is an act of the will.  But I do hoard my faith, only willing to pay out a tiny bit at a time.  This far and no further, say I.  I pray “thy will be done,” but not for the right reasons.  I don’t trust God to come through.  I know he could, but I don’t want to be hurt when he doesn’t.  This is stingy faith.  To ask for a miracle involves surrendering everything to God.  Believing firmly that, against all odds He can and will contravene His own laws to bring about something extraordinary.

Nothing Short of a Miracle is not simply a collection of anecdotes.  For one thing, the book explores the process used to examine modern claims of miraculous cures in the age of science.  More importantly, the stories inevitably lead to reflection upon the nature of saints and God’s relationship to them.  Treece is careful to clarify that we aren’t praying for the saints to perform miracles, but asking them to intercede before God on our behalf.  And why would we do that?  Why not approach Him ourselves?  Well, probably because a lot of people are like me. While many of the miracles in the book are granted to those of little faith, every saint who intercedes for them has utter certainty.  They are extravagant in their faith.  They have so much faith that is spills over into the deficits of others.  It is easy to think, even as believers, that miracles are simply fairy tales for children.  Yet they can be a sign and also a challenge to allow God to work upon us all in mysterious and wondrous ways.  And where we fall short, it is reassuring to know that the communion of saints is always waiting to provide what we lack.  

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