Q&A From Judith Kerr

Today we celebrate our wonderful author Judith Kerr, one of the UK’s most beloved authors and illustrators, and the creator of The Tiger Who Came to Tea! 

Judith is our inspiration this International Women's Day, as she was born in Berlin as the daughter of an influential Jewish writer and theatre critic, but the family left Germany when Judith was young. The family travelled first to Switzerland and then on into France, before finally settling in London, where Judith still lives!

Judith wrote The Tiger Who Came to Tea as a bedtime story for her three-year-old daughter and it has never since been out of print. Published in 1968, the story has been read by several generations and tells the tale of a Tiger who invites himself to tea and eats and drinks all the food and water in Sophie's house. 

We spoke to Judith about her tea-time tale and more before the show went on tour! Read her answers below

‘The Tiger Who Came to Tea’ celebrated its 50th anniversary last year. What do you think makes the story so timelessly popular?

I think because it was a bedtime story for my three year old daughter and I put in all the things that she liked and she seems to have had normal tastes. I’d made up other stories for her but this was the one my daughter she liked best, about a tiger who came to tea. She used to say 'Talk the tiger!' and so I told it so many times. I was very pleasantly surprised when they said they’d publish it. I certainly had no idea that it would be the success it has become.

What was your inspiration for ‘The Tiger Who Came to Tea’?
Quite often we went to the zoo. In those days, before David Attenborough, it was the only way you could see animals. We found the tigers just so incredibly beautiful.

Which do you enjoy most? Writing or illustrating? Why?

Illustrating, because I always wanted to draw from a young age and I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to. Even now, I try to draw every day if I can. My visual memory holds on to things – how people move and walk on the street, how their trousers hang. Those things stay with you.

What do you like to see most in children’s literature today?

I love illustrators and it’s a wonderful time for children’s illustration and illustrated books and not just picture books. I have done an illustrated chapter book myself called Mister Cleghorn’s Seal, that was published a few years ago.

Who was your favourite author as a child when you were growing up?

I loved to read fairtytales, particularly when they were illustrated.

You seem to know instinctively what sparks a child’s imagination, is there anything in your own life that has enabled you to write in that way?

I suppose it was from watching my own children when they were small and working out what they liked. I wasn’t able to work before my children stayed for lunch at school. I think I must have a good memory as I remember such a lot of my own childhood and especially the time leaving Germany and coming to Paris and London.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

I suppose it has to be surviving until 95!

‘The Tiger Who Came To Tea’ also celebrates over 10 years on stage. What do you think David Wood has brought to the stage adaptation of ‘Tiger’?

A brilliant imagination and years of remarkable expertise.

Do you have a favourite song from the stage show?

My favourite is the song “Different In The Dark”.

Do you have a motto for life?
Not so much a motto, but I would say work is a great help.

The Tiger Who Came to Tea will be roaring its way back to London this summer! Playing at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in the West End from 11 July until 4 September 2022, this is one of the best London attractions for kids aged 3+ this summer, so why not book your tickets and enjoy a day out to remember? The show runs for 55-minutes long and is based on the popular children’s picture book by Judith Kerr.