“They all have these electronic things, my grandchildren; God knows what, ipads, whatever they are. But, they are very much the same, they like hearing stories. I think it’s a way of finding about the world.”
Judith Kerr, writer and illustrator of The Tiger who came to Tea.
It all started with Judith Kerr and her visits to the zoo with her daughter. It was mostly for the tigers. In the course of their visit, Kerr told and retold the story of a tiger that visits a little girl and her mother at tea-time. Finally one day she sat down, wrote and illustrated what was going to be one of the most loved children’s books of all time.
Judith Kerr had lived in many countries mostly out of necessity rather than choice. Her parents were trying to stay a step ahead of the Nazi Germans on their back. Judith’s father Alfred Kerr was high on the list of offenders of the Nazis. It has often been speculated if the tiger in The Tiger who came to Tea, was a representation of the Nazis. This has been dismissed by the author who says the story was written simply because her daughter and she loved the tiger at the zoo most.
Sophie and her mother find themselves playing hosts to a tiger who rather politely asks to be invited to tea. Sophie’s mother’s offer of a sandwich is accepted. The hungry tiger wants more, though. The tiger goes on to polish off all the sandwiches on the plate! Buns, biscuits, and cakes are all finished off in quick succession. Tea, milk, supper, and food in the fridge soon vanish into the tiger’s tummy. The supplies in the larder are all eaten up, the water in the taps drank; Sophy’s daddy’s beer and all the orange juice suffer the same fate!
Sophie’s mother finds herself in a quandary. What will she cook for daddy? Luckily Sophie’s dad takes them to a cafe where they have a wonderful dinner. The next day Sophie and mum shop for supplies, not forgetting tiger food. It makes one wonder though which supermarket stocks tiger food! Sophie awaits another visit from her striped guest, but that never happens.
The premise of the story is so wonderful, magical and exotic. Imagine a life filled with prop-ah teas and baths punctuated by a visit from a tiger. A tiger who wishes to be part of the routine for a day. Why does he pick Sophie’s house? Has he come from the zoo or a neighbouring forest? Has he gone asking at other people’s homes? Yet there he is having tea and some and going away only once his gigantic hunger pangs have been satisfied.
The illustrations by Kerr are simple and superb. The tiger with his combed-back look, little Sophie, and her mother are all drawn with such beauty. The drawing of the tiger as it raids saucepan and fridge makes one smile.
The Tiger Who Came To Tea is an unmissable book by an unforgettable author and illustrator.