The real-life inspiration for a children’s classic

Judith Kerr reveals the story behind The Tiger Who Came to Tea – and one of her latest books, about a rescued seal pup.

“My father did save a seal pup… he had to take it back to Berlin, which was quite a long journey, and it went in the luggage van. He kept visiting it – he brought some water and trickled water on it.”

The writer and illustrator Judith Kerr is known for creating children’s classics such as The Tiger Who Came to Tea and the Mog series. She spoke to BBC Culture at the Hay Festival, describing the true story behind one of her latest books, Mister Cleghorn’s Seal, in which a man saves an abandoned seal pup.

When her father ran out of milk, “he and the seal pup took a taxi to a restaurant”, Kerr explains in the video below. “I don’t know what the other diners said… I think everybody was quite pleased, but astonished.” Sadly, the seal pup couldn’t gain weight, and her father had to have it put down. “I suppose because I always wished it had a happy ending, I did one with a happy ending.”

In the other clip from the interview, at the top, Kerr talks about what inspired some of her best-known books and reveals her admiration for Dr Seuss, who wrote Green Eggs and Ham using just 50 words.

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