TNB Night Owl–Judith Kerr

Judith Kerr, photo by Christoph Rieger

May 22nd saw the passing of Judith Kerr at the age of 95. While many in the US may not have heard of her, she was a beloved British author and illustrator of children’s books and will sorely be missed.

Judith Kerr was born in 1923 in Berlin to a Jewish family. Her father, a theater critic, had come under fire for writing negative things about the Nazis. The family fled Germany in 1933 just before the Nazi party took over the city. They migrated through a few European nations before landing in England.

She grew up to work on special effects for the BBC, meeting her future husband Nigel Kneale on the set of THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT. After the two married and had kids, Kerr wrote children’s books to keep her kids entertained. She wrote When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit to explain to her son what life was like for her during that era. She also wrote The Tiger Who Came To Tea about, well, a tiger coming for tea. It was adored by young readers.

Where she really made her mark was with the Mog the Cat books. Mog The Forgetful Cat brings Mog to the Thomas household where her antics sometimes annoyed but always endeared them–as well as British children. For fifteen books, Mog delighted children at storytime with capers of losing her favorite toy, meeting an annoying dog, or celebrating Christmas in an adventurous way only Mog could.

After that, though, Kerr did something authors of popular children’s characters rarely do: she killed Mog.

When she reached the age of 80, she began facing her own mortality, and knowing her grandchildren would have to deal with her mortality was well. She showed Mog passing and going to heaven, where her spirit teaches the Thomas’ new kitten how to play and be a family cat. In doing so, she hoped to teach kids about death and grief.

Luckily, Kerr still had fifteen good more years before her family would have to face her passing. In that time she continued to write and illustrate books for young readers and watch her grandchildren grow. Even with the passing of both Mog and Kerr, her books will continue to delight kids for generations.

QUESTION OF THE NIGHT: What are some of your favorite or most memorable kids’ books?

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