Pupils, parents and staff at a school will stage a picnic to mark the courageous and joyous life of an author – on the day which would have been her birthday.
Herne Hill children’s author megastar Judith Kerr died on Friday aged 95.
She sold nine million books and is best remembered for her book The Tiger Who Came To Tea, published in 1968 – but she had already had a remarkable life which included fleeing the Nazis and writing scripts for the BBC.
She is also famous for the Mog series of picture books about the Thomas’ family cat and the strange things she gets up to.
She received an OBE for services to literature and Holocaust education in 2012.
Judith was born in Berlin, but came to England with her family when she was 12 after escaping the Nazis and travelling through Switzerland and France as a young girl.
She wrote about her early life in her autobiographical trilogy Out of the Hitler Time.
As a child of the pre-war German intelligentsia, Kerr was forced to flee with her Jewish parents when Adolf Hitler came to power.
The Gestapo arrived at their home to arrest them a day after they had fled on a train to Switzerland.
Among the few possessions her mother had packed were Judith’s childhood drawings and paintings.
The family came to London, via Paris, in 1936 when Judith was 13.
In London, she learnt English, trained as a secretary, worked for the Red Cross during the war and later won a scholarship to the Central School of Arts and Crafts.
She later became an art teacher and it was in the school canteen she met her future husband, Nigel Kneale, who was shortly to write the groundbreaking television science fiction serial, The Quatermass Experiment and its sequels. She also became a BBC scriptwriter.
The couple married in 1954, the year after the first series was broadcast. Kerr had helped to make – and operate – the special effects.
She left the BBC to look after their two children Matthew and Tacy, who inspired her first picture book, The Tiger Who Came to Tea.
She wrote about her childhood and her status as a refugee in a trilogy of books for children, the first of which was When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, which became a set text in German schools.
Charlie Redmayne, head of her publisher HarperCollins, said: “She was a wonderful and inspiring person who was much loved by everyone.
“She was a brilliantly talented artist and storyteller who has left us an extraordinary body of work.
“Always understated and very, very funny, she loved life and loved people – and particularly she loved a party.
“Time spent in her company was one of life’s great privileges and I am so grateful to have known her.”
Kerr, who published more than 30 books over a 50-year career, dreamed up the tiger to amuse her two children.
Charlie and Lola author Lauren Child said she was a “huge admirer of her work, as a writer and an illustrator”.
Herne Hill’s Judith Kerr Primary School in Half Moon Lane, will hold a picnic, dressing up as tigers and cats, at 3.30pm on what would have been her birthday, June 14.
The school was named after her in 2013.
As headteacher Marta Correia said: “We are a bilingual school –we do the National Curriculum but there is also German language provision here. She also lived near the site of the school. So when the founders were looking for someone to pay tribute to in the naming of the school, they realised she was the idea person.
“We are devastated to learn of her passing. She was a wonderful writer and illustrator, and a fantastically generous, enthusiastic friend of our school community.
“It has been such a privilege over the past six years to have been able to welcome Judith to JKPS on many occasions – to give incredible storytelling sessions and motivational talks to our children, and participate in school events.
“Judith’s warm and open outlook on life has become a central part of the school’s own personality. We’ll long remember and celebrate a wonderful friend.”
Judith celebrated her 90th birthday in June 2013 with the publication of her latest book Judith Kerr’s Creatures.
On Desert Island Discs in 2004, she told Sue Lawley: “I think of the business of the Holocaust, and the one and a half million children who didn’t get out as I got out, in the nick of time — I think about them almost every day now, because I’ve had such a happy and fulfilled life and they’d have given anything to have had just a few days of it.
“And I hope I’ve not wasted any of it: I try to get the good of every bit of it because I know they would have done if they’d had the chance.”
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