Judith Kerr Tribute at V&A Museum of Childhood
Judith Kerr is a treasure to the world of writing and art. Not just children's books but all works of fiction. We have been through the tribute/installation to Judith at the V&A Museum of Childhood (From The Tiger Who Came to Tea to Mog and Pink Rabbit) at least half a dozen times now and can't wait to go back! Yes, I grumble as my fellow parents jostle for pics on their Iphones and 500quid digital cameras as "no photography allowed" signs hang nearby. We try to arrive early but school is out and we now have to share our magical museum, sand pit, cafe, Punch and Judy theatres, sensory pod etc with others who have the very same idea. ;) We slept in the giant cat bed but our son still won't pose with the giant Tiger at the dinner table.
The Tiger Who Came to Tea and the MOG books (17 volumes!) are veritable Valentines to children's literature and why they are not as popular in the US as they are here in the UK is a mystery. More and more, artists of Judith Kerr's calibre are simply not emerging these days and we need them more than ever. When I read of her childhood literally hopping from one country to another Germany, France, Switzerland, England it also hits home that her generation has the stories and the experiences unlike any other. That may sound rote but I truly feel that way. kerr's father, noted drama critic, journalist and screenwriter Alfred Kerr, had openly criticised the Nazi Regime. His books then were burned by the Nazis shortly after her family fled Germany. They travelled first to Switzerland and then on into France, before finally settling in Britain. V@A opens her tribute with a room full of four identical antique wooden desks representing each country her family fled to and filled with accoutrements and ephemera from each year. This leads onto a visual feast/tribute to her first picture book (complete with cozy beds), of The Tiger Who Came to Tea (published in 1968). Tiger was written as a bedtime story for her own children and soon became a classic being translated into 11 languages and selling over five million copies. A GIANT stuffed toy Tiger presides over a dinner table. He must be seen in person to be believed! (see below picture from the wonderful east London Advertiser to get an idea)
But numbers, fame and mammoth stuffies are not the essential components to Kerr's oeuvre. Like Beatrix Potter her artistry is outlandishly underrated even as she flickers subliminally in the minds of most Brits and Anglophiles. I still have to take more pics of the exhibit, perhaps the most charming being a display of all her books in chronology order.