When I think about it, there are three standout classic picture books from my childhood, they are;
The Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle,
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak and
The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr.
Yesterday I saw Judith Kerr at the Budleigh Literary Festival. She’s 92 and that book has been in print for over 45 years.
That’s pretty amazing isn’t it.
It doesn’t have any deep meaning, it isn’t an allegory for something else, it doesn’t try to teach children about anything. It’s just fun, a story that she made up for her daughter, who liked it.
You may not know Judith Kerr’s story, that’s pretty amazing too. It’s better told elsewhere and in her own words, but her father was a very well known anti-nazi writer who, a few days before Hitler came to power, received an anonymous phone call telling him, “You have to leave, they’re trying to take your passports.”
In bed with flu and a high temperature, he threw some clothes into a suitcase and caught the first train out of Berlin, leaving his wife and children to follow soon after.
The day after they left, their home in Berlin was raided.
If they’d stopped to think or to see if things would blow over, their own personal history would have been very different.
She said yesterday that she felt she owed it to all those people who weren’t so fortunate, not to waste that opportunity, and when asked for advice on how to succeed her reply was, “You just do it… You just try.”
Very good, practical advice and I’m grateful to Mr and Mrs Kerr (Senior) for doing just that so that their daughter’s book could be listed in my top three and passed on to my own children.