When children first enter the school system in the UK they follow [...]
Q&A with author Judith KerrCreated by Charlotte in Age: At School, Age: Pre-school, Education
‘Judith Kerr ‘ was born on 14 June 1923 in Berlin but escaped from Hitler’s Germany with her parents and brother in 1933 when she was nine years old. Her father was a drama critic and a distinguished writer whose books were burned by the Nazis. The family passed through Switzerland and France before arriving finally in England in 1936. Judith went to eleven different schools, worked in the Red Cross during the war, and won a scholarship to the Central School of Arts and Crafts in 1945. Since then she has worked as an artist, a BBC television scriptwriter and, for the past thirty years, as author and illustrator of children’s books.
Her three autobiographical novels are based on her early wandering years (which against all the odds she greatly enjoyed), her adolescence in London during the war, and finally on a brief return to Berlin as a young married woman. The stories have been internationally acclaimed and, to the author’s considerable satisfaction, have done particularly well in Germany where they are sometimes used as an easy introduction to a difficult period of Germany history.
Judith has a daughter who is a designer and a son who is a novelist. She lives in London.
Why did you attend eleven different schools?
I went to so many different schools because we never stayed in one place for very long whilst I was growing up. We went to Switzerland when we left Germany, then Paris and England.
Kerr is a Scottish name, is it a German one too? And do you visit Germany much? Do you still have relatives there?
Kerr was my father’s pen name. We didn’t know it was a Scottish name when he adopted it as his pen name. I don’t have any relatives in Germany but I do go there in relation to my father’s books which have all been republished.
Children’s books most definitely.
Do you have a favourite book that you’ve written? Why do you feel that one is your favourite?
I think my favourite is the second novel – Bombs on Aunt Dainty. I also like the Great Granny Gang very much because of the rhyme and the drawings.
Where do you gets your ideas and inspiration from? Do you have a sort of ‘light bulb’ moment, or are her stories prompted by a real-life person or event?
I get my inspiration from real-life events. For the Mog stories it was all the things that our various cats did. I do have a light-bulb moment – it’s a rather dim bulb but one nevertheless.
I imagine you are a cat person. Can you tell us about your cats and if you had a very special one.
Yes, we have always had cats – nine in total. My latest cat is called Katinka. The original Mog was the most special one, partly because she was the first and we’d never had a cat before.
Do you think there is a writing gene? Your son’s books are brilliant too, especially enjoyed ‘English Passengers’. Did you share your techniques with your children as they were learning to write?
I think my son Matthew was more influenced by his father Nigel Kneale who was a writer and scriptwriter. He gets his writing talent from him rather than me. Matthew’s father and grandfather were both writers so there must be a writing gene.