Long after Hitler and Tiger, Judith Kerr still has yarns to spin

Thu Oct 1, 2015 12:37pm EDT
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By Estelle Shirbon

LONDON (Reuters) - At 92 years of age and with over nine million books sold, British children's writer and illustrator Judith Kerr could be enjoying a restful retirement, but no.

The author of bestselling picture book "The Tiger Who Came To Tea" and of "When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit", an account of her childhood as a Jewish refugee fleeing Nazi Germany, Kerr has just published a new book and is keen to find her next project.

"I'm miserable now because I haven't thought of the next one yet," she joked at her home in Barnes, a leafy corner of south west London, where she has lived and worked since 1962.

Elegant in a long gray dress and pearl necklace, and fit from her frequent walks by the Thames, Kerr effortlessly climbed two steep flights of stairs to her studio, a small room with a drawing board and table cluttered with pencils and sketchbooks.

Faded family photos vie for shelf space there with books and trinkets including cuddly toy versions of Mog the cat, one of Kerr's most popular creations who features in many of her books.

Her new work, "Mister Cleghorn's Seal", is a novella illustrated with black-and-white pencil drawings, a departure for Kerr. "'Mister Cleghorn' I really am pleased with, because it's something I've never done before," she said.

The tale of a man whose snap decision to save a motherless seal pup turns his life upside down, it was inspired by a true episode from the youth of her father, Alfred Kerr, a famous writer and drama critic in Germany before World War Two.

"Only my father would have thought he could do this mad thing," said Kerr, chuckling at the thought of him struggling to keep a seal on his Berlin balcony. The story did not end well for the real seal, although the novella has a happy conclusion.   Continued...

British children's writer and illustrator Judith Kerr chats as she sits by her desk at her home in west London, Britain September 30, 2015.  REUTERS/Dylan Martinez