Fiona Leckerman is wooed by the Jewish Museum’s retrospective on celebrated author Judith Kerr
Walking in to the Jewish Museum’s fantastic new exhibition, Tiger, Mog and Pink Rabbit: A Judith Kerr Retrospective, is like walking straight onto the open page of one of the writer’s adored children’s books.
Tiger footprints line the stairs and lead a path into the space housing the complete history of the author’s life and work. The exhibition sheds light on Kerr’s early childhood in Nazi Germany and how she became one of Britain’s most loved storytellers. We even find out that Mog was Kerr’s real cat, which did love eggs.
This retrospective is uniquely interactive, with headphones available to listen to Kerr reading When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit – the novel written to her own children as a way of explaining her childhood. There is a glorious life-sized recreation of Sophie’s kitchen, complete with Tiger seated at the breakfast table.
The cupboards are packed with food and even Daddy’s chair sits in a corner next to Sophie and Mummy’s coats that hang on the same hooks that appear in the book. Round the corner is Mog’s basket, big enough to seat many children and scattered with all her books, at hand to be re-read and enjoyed.
Jewish Museum chief executive Abigail Morris excitedly points out her favourite elements of the exhibition: two original drawings that Kerr produced as a nine-year-old living in Nazi Germany, which reveal the beginnings of her distinctive style.
They were lovingly packed in a suitcase by Kerr’s mother as they fled Germany, becoming refugees in Switzerland and then France before finally settling in England.
Morris’ eyes sparkle as she says: “It’s a true gift to this country to have her books; we are very lucky.”
Morris continues: “The Jewish Museum is a fitting place to explore Judith’s experience as a refugee from Nazi Germany and to discover more about her remarkable life, enjoy her beautiful artwork and have tea with a tiger!”
This exhibition not only celebrates Kerr’s books, but offers an insight into the woman herself, with films showing the now 94-year-old, still working in her studio, explaining the process of storytelling and illustration.
The magic of fiction and how it captivates is evident in every corner of the space, where children are encouraged to pick up a copy from the Mog series and climb into Debbie’s bed, where imagining the forgetful cat becomes an unforgettable experience.
• Tiger, Mog and Pink Rabbit: A Judith Kerr Retrospective runs until 14 October. Details: www.jewish museum.org.uk/judithkerr