The tiger who came to tea

The tiger who came to tea, written and illustrated by Judith Kerr, it was a favourite when she told it to her children. ‘Talk the tiger,’ her small daughter would command. And she did. So much so, that when the children went to school and she had more time, she created this picture book beloved of generations of children.

Perhaps some of that love comes from the comforting amiability of the family who unexpectedly find a tiger at their teatime table.
‘Sophie opened the door, and there was a big, furry stripy tiger. The tiger said: ‘Excuse me, but I am very hungry. Do you think I could have tea with you? Sophie’s mummy said: ‘of course, come in.’

So, the tiger eats everything provided for a rather lavish tea for two – and then looks around for something else to eat.
I think the picture of Sophie and the tiger on the double-page-spread in the middle of the book tells us what the book may mean to children of four or five. The tiger – the fearsome tiger – allows Sophie to cuddle him. He is five times her size, and clearly thinking about what to eat next, but it is never going to be Sophie. She is safe. And Daddy comes home, at the prescribed time, and seemingly unfazed by the fact that a (now departed) tiger has eaten all the food in his house, takes his family to the café for supper.

And there, on the pavement we see a tiger-striped domestic cat, and we wonder.

The tiger who came to tea

By Judith Kerr

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