Tag Archive: judith kerr


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    It doesn’t get much better than this. The opening night of the Children’s Literature Festival, in association with The Telegraph, sees the return of Gill and John McLay, after a two-year absence, to the helm of the festival they created in 2007.  On stage, the guest speaker is Judith Kerr.  Author, illustrator, master storyteller, she has given us hungry tigers, pink rabbits, recalcitrant cats and gangs of grannies, amongst many other unforgettable characters. Her latest creation is the tale of Mister Cleghorn’s seal.

    The story behind this book is a marvellous one, rooted in Kerr’s memory of sitting astride a stuffed seal that her father kept in his study. The pup had been orphaned during a culling. To avoid its likely death, Kerr’s father took it in. Transporting the small seal from Normandy to Berlin by train he fed it a mixture of milk and cod-liver oil. When that ran out, and the train reached its destination, he caught a taxi to a restaurant to procure some more milk. For a while, the seal lived on the balcony of his apartment, pressing its mournful face against the window-pane. Now on the page it comes to life again in her distinctive line drawings.

    Kerr’s own long and varied life provides much of the material that she has worked into more than thirty best-selling books.  Drawing on her early childhood in Nazi Germany, married life and motherhood in England, the eccentricities of her father, and the studied observation of her household moggies (“There is no question about who is controlling whom”), she has written and illustrated books that defy classification, appealing to the nine-year-old and the ninety-year-old reader alike.

    The delight of the audience is palpable. Laughter sweeps across the crowded room and people vie to ask questions. When her own children were growing up, Kerr says, there was little to ease the transition for the young reader from the shenanigans of Dr Zeuss to the complex machinations of Sherlock Holmes. This is the territory that she has made her own. It all started when she told tales to entertain her daughter. “Talk the tiger,” she was instructed nightly, and so her talent grew.

    Her principal urge is to illustrate, and the story soon follows. Long walks allow rumination on plot and character. The best thing about writing the words to accompany your own illustrations, Kerr confides, is that it means you don’t have to draw things that you don’t want to. Her habit, she says, is to look about her, “thinking that the world is a good place”. And it is her consummate ability to translate such optimism and pleasure at life’s vagaries onto the page that continues to guarantee the enormous popularity of her books.

    Blog Author: Claudia Pugh-Thomas



  2. Lois Edwards (Age 9) Questions Shifty McGifty illustrator Steven Lenton: On Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton & Judith Kerr

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    In the run up to the 2015  Telegraph Bath Children’s Literature Festival which starts tomorrow, Monkton Combe Prep School in Bath, held a workshop with Steven Lenton, who is famous for illustrating the Shifty McGifty books and lots of other stories.

    By Lois Edwards (Age 9)

    The workshop started with him reading a few stories to us and then he taught us how to draw some of the dog characters from the stories.

    I thought it was very good because he showed us a really easy way to draw the characters and I have been drawing them at home on my own too. Afterwards I was lucky enough to be able to spend some time with Steven and ask him some questions about his illustrations.

    Lois: Was art your favourite subject in school?

    Steven: It was. I really liked writing and drawing at primary school and secondary school, so yes art was definitely always my favourite.

    Lois: Are you working on a book at the moment?

    Steven: Yes, we’ve just finished Shifty McGifty 3 and we’ve just started on Shifty McGifty 4

    Lois: Do you keep an ideas book for doodling in?

    Steven: I do. I keep a small sketch book on me at all times, because I might wake up at midnight with a really good idea or I might be on the bus or the train or in the car (not driving of course!) and come up with another idea and want to write it down quickly. So having a book with you all the time to make notes is a really good idea.

    Lois: What other illustrators do you admire?

    Steven: When I was growing up I loved Quentin Blake who does all the Roald Dahl book illustrations like the BFG. There’s also a lady who I really like, who designs a lot of Disney books called Mary Blair. I also really like Judith Kerr who did the Tiger who came to tea, she’s going to be at the Bath Literature Festival this year. That’s probably enough isn’t it. I could go on all day! (On Thursday 1 October Bath Festivals is auctioning over 60 original, unique, illustrations by Bath Children’s Literature Festival illustrators including Axel Scheffler (The Gruffalo) and Chris Riddell (Goth Girl) click here for more information)

    Lois: Did anyone inspire you to become an illustrator?

    Steven: My teachers at primary school did. Mrs Wood who was my very first teacher was very good at art and I’ve had really good teachers all through my life. So yes teachers really are the main influence. And then I like to read up about other artists in the library and I used to enjoy watching animations on tv, and I knew I wanted to create my own characters so anything that involved characters I liked.

    Lois: Do you prefer to draw with a pencil and paper or on a computer?

    Steven:  Well I use both. It’s funny you should ask that because I always start off with a sketch book with pencil and paper and then I scan it into the computer and then I colour everything in. So everything you see in colour in my work is all done in photoshop on the computer. So I use a really good mixture of both

    Lois: Do you just illustrate books or do you draw other things too?

    Steven: I do draw other things too. I still do bits of animation and I design characters for TV commercials as well , I also design greeting cards and advent calendars. So yes lots of other different things that i try and do in between doing the books.

    Lois: If you were writing a book would you start with the story or the drawings?

    Steven: I would say neither, I start with the idea. So if you get an idea and it’s easier to explain it and write it down first then it would be the words but if you come up with a really good idea for a character it might be quicker to draw the character first. So it depends on the idea but the idea comes first.

    Lois: If you could illustrate any book in the whole world, which would you pick?

    Steven: Hmmm, well there’s a book with lots of dotty dogs in it and that would be my dream job. I think I’d like to design a really nice big book like Peter Pan, a real classic. I love the Far Away Tree books too by Enid Blyton, I’d love to illustrate those, or Alice in Wonderland as well would be really nice.

    Lois: I can see you like drawing dogs, do you have a pet dog?

    Steven: I do have a pet dog, she’s a Jack Russel and she’s a rescue dog called Holly. She’s getting on a bit, she’s 11 or 12 now and she can be quite grump

    Shifty Mcgifty illustrator Steven Lenton is appearing with Tracey Corderoy at the Festival on Sunday 27 September at 10.30am at the Mission Theatre in Bath to book tickets click here

    To see the full 2015 Telegraph Bath Children’s Literature Festival programme click here. Bath Box Office 01225 463362


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    So, it’s that time of year again –  The Telegraph Bath Children’s Literature Festival is almost upon us and the literary world is buzzing with excitement! The two week extravaganza is the perfect antidote to the blustery weather that signals the arrival of autumn, and this year I’m even more excited than usual.

    Little Stars


    I’ve been coming to the festival since I was a student at Bath Spa University, many (too many!) moons ago and I’m not quite sure how they do it, but the line up gets bigger and better every year. One of my greatest Bath Kids Lit Festival moments was seeing Meg Rosoff, David Almond and Melvin Burgess on one spectacular panel, and the Michael Rosen event at the Forum a couple of years ago was another one I’ll always remember.

    Patrick Ness


    This year I’m most looking forward to seeing Jacqueline Wilson and Patrick Ness, as well as heading to see Judith Kerr kick off the proceedings on the Festival’s opening night. Getting to see three of the greatest authors of all time within the space of a fortnight? Yes please.

    It’s such a wonderful opportunity for readers and writers to come together and celebrate the diversity of the kids lit world…and you don’t have to jump on a train to London to see some of your favourite authors, which is always a nice change! Bath has a booming community of book lovers and there’s such a lovely atmosphere around the festival that can’t be beaten by any other literary event. Plus, where else are you going to see Peter Rabbit and Derek Landy on the same line up?

    For the full 2015 programme click here, the 2015 Festival runs from Friday 25th September to Sunday 4th October. Bath Box Office 01225 463362

    This is a guest blog post by Writing from the Tub

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