Judith Kerr OBE . Oh how I love her. Come on, we ALL do – show me a parent, and I’ll show you a battered copy of The Tiger Who Came To Tea.
Her oddly age-irrelevant and rather wonderful ‘When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit‘ is one of my top ten comfort reads.
I grew up with wonderful Mog, and enjoyed them all again the second time round with my children when they were small.
But I couldn’t get quite as excited about the new Judith Kerr – because it couldn’t be a new Mog story. Anyone with a child over the age of 17 will of course know that Mog died (that article’s worth a read actually; Judith Kerr’s life story is amazing, she’s an astonishing woman). Yes, the beloved Judith Kerr actually went there, and wrote a story about a national character leaving us.
And it was wonderful.
So wonderful that I in fact revisited our battered copy with my 10yr old youngest just two week’s ago when our darling family dog was put to sleep – and Judith helped my girl enormously.
But a new cat story? Hmmm, that’s hallowed ground. I wasn’t sure – this new Katinka has some seriously big boots to fill.
Good news though – our new cat hero, is real, just as Mog was. Once again, Kerr has written and illustrated a book her own cat (and Katinka’s WAY more cheerful than Mog ever was!).
And just as you’d expect, she lives with a lovely old lady – Kerr who is now 94 (94!), has drawn herself, and my deep love of this book stems an awful lot from the wonderful, charming little old lady who potters gently through its pages.
The story beings with a very normal day – any cat owner will recognise each step, as Katinka ‘helps’ with the chores. Typically, with Kerr there’s no avoiding the grosser side of pets, either – finding half a mouse? Of course we talk about it.
And naturally things take a more exciting turn as the night falls, and the elderly lady falls asleep. Katinka is a white cat with a tabby tail, and it’s the magic in that amazing tail that is the star of the second half of the story as we follow her, lead by that magical shiny now-golden tail, to the moon on an adventure (yes, more prosaic mouse eating occurs, even from a magic cat).
In a children’s library filled with bright, energetic, bursting-out-of-the-book text and illustrations, Katinka’s Tail has a timeless classic feel which is like a hug from your Gran – loved, familiar and sometimes just everything a person needs.
Young children will love the familiarity of the routine, the predictability of the day, the gentleness of the illustrations and the fun in the naughty cat of the beautiful images while they listen to Kerr’s typically dry, sparse words.
And we parents? We’ll love that little old lady, pottering through her day with a cheerful smiling cat for company. We’ll recognise her, and feel a little sad for her, and we’ll love her. Really very much.
Katinka’s Tail by Judith Kerr OBE is available form all good bookshops, priced around £7