Tag Archives: childhood

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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I can’t remember what dream prompted it but I woke up with this thought yesterday.

So much of our enjoyment at the things of childhood disappears as we grow older.  The day comes when our old games of pretend ring hollow, our favourite songs seem silly, our favourite shows looks stilted and phony.  This happens at an individual level but also on a societal scale.  As technology changes and culture shifts, much of what was once entertaining seems dated to each new generation.  The sense of humor behind Leave It To Beaver doesn’t ring true anymore.  We might enjoy watching something like that with a nostalgia for a more innocent time, but we don’t really “get” it.  Popular music is another area where this can be seen, or even games.  Angry Birds is the new Tiddly-winks.  But there is one activity that delights children and their parents in much the same way it has for centuries.  Going to the zoo never goes out of style.  Joy, and awe at the amazing variety, beauty and strangeness of creatures never forsake us with age or never fail to captivate the young.  Perhaps it is because all those other things are the inventions of men, while animals spring from the creative mind of God.  Whatever the reason, it is comforting to know that, when all else fails, the striped tiger, the gleaming killer whale, and the fantastical kangaroo bring us all back to the wide-eyed, slack-jawed, heart-racing wonder of a little child.  Best of all, we can experience them side by side with our own children, hands clasped tightly, noses to the glass.

At The Zoo

There are lions and roaring tigers,
and enormous camels and things,
There are biffalo-buffalo-bisons,
and a great big bear with wings.
There’s a sort of a tiny potamus,
and a tiny nosserus too –
But I gave buns to the elephant
when I went down to the Zoo!

There are badgers and bidgers and bodgers,
and a Super-in-tendent’s House,
There are masses of goats, and a Polar,
and different kinds of mouse,
And I think there’s a sort of a something
which is called a wallaboo –
But I gave buns to the elephant
when I went down to the Zoo!

If you try to talk to the bison,
he never quite understands;
You can’t shake hands with a mingo –
he doesn’t like shaking hands.
And lions and roaring tigers
hate saying, “How do you do?” –
But I give buns to the elephant
when I go down to the Zoo!

A.A. Milne

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