Lauren Child pays tribute to ‘generous’ Judith Kerr

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Child (left) and Kerr were friends for more than 10 years

The children’s author Judith Kerr has died at the age of 95.

Most famous for her book The Tiger Who Came to Tea and her series of Mog books, Kerr continued working into her nineties and published her most recent work, Mummy Time, in September last year.

Speaking to BBC News, fellow author and Children’s Laureate Lauren Child – who writes the Charlie and Lola series of books – remembers her close friend as “one of the most generous people I’ve ever met”.

“I’m a huge admirer of her work, as a writer and an illustrator, she was wonderful but more than that, she was a good friend,” she said.

“I first met her. I don’t know how many years ago now, maybe 10 years ago. And I always thought she was one of the most generous people to talk to about work

She was so interested in other writers and illustrators and always was asking questions, not one of those people who expected people to talk all about her, even though she was incredibly interesting and talented. She always wanted to know what everybody else was doing.”

Some more of Child’s thoughts…

The enduring appeal of The Tiger Who Came to Tea

I mean, people have different opinions. But I think it’s a very reassuring story. Its a magical story, about being at home with your mum in a very secure place and this creature comes in and he’s actually not threatening at all and you get this interesting, rather amazing adventure.

But it ends beautifully, so you’re left with this feeling of regret because you know he’s never going to come back. But you’ve had this amazing experience.

Because she sets it within a kitchen, which is quite recognisable, it could be anybody. So it has universal appeal.

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Judith Kerr

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The tiger was friendly, not fierce

Kerr’s passion for her work

She has such a light touch in her storytelling, it was so spare. She tells the story so perfectly without lots of drama. One of her recent books, called Mummy Time, is all about going to the park with your child and you’re on the phone because a lot of parents are desperate to talk to somebody else, and you go to the park and the child is wandering around having this amazing adventure.

I remember a journalist saying, ‘Oh, you know, is that that important? Saying to parents you should spend more time actually talking to your child and interacting?’ But she said, ‘No, it was just something I observed.’ And she didn’t have to be judgemental in her work. It just beautifully conveyed something without bashing people over the head.

I spoke to her on the phone last week to see how she was. She was just so pleased that she’d finished her book. Because it mattered to her a lot. She was very committed to her work. And she worked all the time. So whenever we spoke, she was telling me about the book that she was working on.

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Kerr was awarded an Order of the British Empire (OBE) medal, presented to her by the Prince of Wales in 2013

Kerr’s legacy and impact on children’s literature

I don’t remember her being embarrassed. I did a couple of events with her, so I was there when people came up to her and that you could see how moved they were by meeting her.

I mean, it was really such a profound thing when people came up to her and she was so gracious. She wasn’t awkward. I think she was just interested in other people as much as anything, but I think she loved talking to people. I mean, she loved doing events. And she was doing them, you know, right up until recently. I think it’s only when she got a bit fragile that she couldn’t.

But she loved meeting people and talking about work and talking about things.

It’s quite hard talking about somebody you’re so fond of, there is so much I could say about her, one thing I loved most about her was her sense of humour. She was always the most interesting person in the room.

You would walk into a room and I would always head for Judith because you would always have the most fantastic conversation.

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