Author and illustrator Judith Kerr has died aged 95. Her publisher, HarperCollins, confirmed the news with a tweet on Thursday morning.
Kerr was best known for her first picture book, “The Tiger Who Came To Tea,” which brought joy to generations of children and their parents.
She was also loved for her long-running Mog series about a family and their cat – and “When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit,” the first of Kerr’s autobiographical trilogy about moving from Germany, via France, to England in the 1930s with her own family.
The author published her first book her 40s – and it managed to reach its millionth sale in 2017. The book was inspired by her daughter Tacy. According to Nielsen, although originally published in 1968, it has remained in the top 5,000 books every year since its records began.
Ann-Janine Murtagh, executive publisher HarperCollins Children’s Books, said: “It has been the greatest honour and privilege to know and publish Judith Kerr for over a decade, though of course her history with HarperCollins goes back over 50 years.
“She came to visit our offices frequently – always bringing her books in person; often arriving on the number nine bus and leaving us all full of laughter and in awe of her astonishing zest for life and absolute commitment to delivering the very best books for children. My thoughts at this time are with her children, Matthew and Tacy, and her grandchildren.”
Charlie Redmayne, HarperCollins chief executive, added: “Judith Kerr was a wonderful and inspiring person. She was a brilliantly talented artist and storyteller who has left us an extraordinary body of work. Always understated and very, very funny, Judith loved life and loved people – and particularly she loved a party.”
Kerr was born in 1923 in Berlin, Germany. Her family was forced to flee the country 10 years later out of fear, because her father, Alfred Kerr, had openly criticised the Nazis. They moved to Switzerland, then France, before settling in England in 1936.
Growing up, Kerr was initially interested in drawing – and won a scholarship from the Central School of Arts and Crafts. She worked as an artist in her 20s and was teaching at a technical college when she met her husband, screenwriter Nigel Kneale. Just last week, she was named illustrator of the year at the British Book Awards, although she didn’t attend the ceremony.
It was only when she became a mother that Kerr started to write. “The Tiger Who Came To Tea” was thought up one day as a way to amuse her eldest daughter.
In her 50-year career, she published more than 30 books. Her latest, illustrated chapter book “The Curse of the School Rabbit,” will be published in June 2019, originally to celebrate her 96th birthday. Kerr had been scheduled to speak at the Hay Festival on 1 June, in conversation with Claire Armitstead, about the book.
Fans of Kerr’s work have shared on Twitter how much the author’s books have meant to them.