Judith Kerr exhibition at the V&A Museum of Childhood is a must-visit for kids of all ages

By Richard Moss | 11 August 2011
a drawing of a little girl holding on to the tail of a large tiger who is drinking water from the tap of a kitchen sink
The Tiger Who Came To Tea© Kerr-Kneale Productions Ltd
Exhibition: From The Tiger Who Came To Tea to Mog and Pink Rabbit: A Judith Kerr Retrospective, Victoria & Albert Museum of Childhood, London, until September 4 2011

When Judith Kerr took her children to London zoo in the 1960s, she stumbled upon an idea that became one of the most successful children’s stories of all time.

The Tiger Who Came To Tea began as an improvised bedtime tale in which a tiger ate and drank everything in the house – including all the water in the tap.

a drawing of a little girl and her mum sat at a table with a large tiger
The show charts a story which has lasted more than 40 years© Kerr-Kneale Productions Ltd
Forty-odd years later and this simple tale, which is resolved when dad arrives and takes everybody out for sausages and chips, is one of the best selling childrens' picture books of all time.

A large part of the success of this straightforward yet slightly off-kilter story is down not only to its whimsical simplicity but also to Kerr’s illustrations.

Their warmth and humanity, tinged with what the children's novelist Michael Rosen aptly described as "surrealism", also graces her 17-strong Mog series and the autobiographical When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, about her family’s escape from Nazi Germany in the 1940s.

Kerr generously donated her original illustrations to Seven Stories, the museum of children’s book illustration in Newcastle, and this touring exhibition draws on some of the best from this collection.

an illustration of a large grey, striped cat with a white chest
Mog© Kerr-Kneale Productions Ltd
Visitors can see iconic original artwork, notes and sketches from The Tiger Who Came To Tea alongside Kerr's fragile early childhood drawings, which her mother carefully preserved and brought with the family during the perilous escape to London in 1936.

Smaller visitors to the exhibition can have tea with a life-size tiger in the kitchen or read the adventures of Mog curled up inside her cosy basket.

There can’t be many children born since the 1970s who haven’t had The Tiger Who Came To Tea or the adventures of Mog the Forgetful Cat read to them at some point in their development. And the parents who have done the reading must run into the millions.

This then, like most of the displays in the V&A Museum of Childhood, is one for children and adults of all ages.

  • Open 10am-5.45pm. Admission free.
  • See the for this exhibition
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