Pamela Butchart: How Judith Kerr Influenced My Love for Picture Books

Pamela Butchart: How Judith Kerr Influenced My Love for Picture Books

Both Mog and the tiger are funny, mischievous characters which appealed to me as a child (and probably even more so as a grown up!) The illustrations of Mog are hilarious (especially in ‘Mog and the Baby’). Mog’s personality leaps off of each page, making it easy to get to know and love her.

Mog seemed very real to me when I was little. I used to picture her walking around my house and would imagine how she would react to things, like my dog, Ben, and what her face would look like if I gave her a big bowl of fish. It felt like Mog was my cat.

My favourite Judith Kerr book is ‘Mog and the Baby’. This story is about Mog tolerating a baby who she then accidently saves at the end and gets a big reward.

I used to gaze at the pictures in this book for hours when I was a child. I was especially drawn to the hilarious illustration of Mog tucked up tight in a pram with her little bonnet on, looking horrified. Judith has such an amazing ability to show the character’s emotions in her illustrations.

I’ve also always loved the illustration of the baby eating Mog’s fish dinner. The baby leaves a bite mark in the fish which I probably traced with my finger hundreds of times when I was little. I always thought of that baby whenever we passed the fresh fish counter in the supermarket. I imagined it climbing up onto the ice and hungrily eating all the fish.

I had never had a cat when I was growing up, but when my cats, Bear and Carlos, came to live with me a few years ago they made me think a lot about Mog. I realised just how perfectly Judith had captured the personality of cats when writing about her own cat. In fact, in ‘Mog and the Baby’, Mog has a lovely dream about having kittens, and I was surprised to notice when re-reading this book recently, that one of the kittens looks a lot like my cat, Bear! I hadn’t noticed the resemblance before, and it’s made me wonder if the child in me remembered Mog’s dream kitten when I chose mischievous little Bear.

My favourite thing about ‘The Tiger Who Came to Tea’ has always been, of course, the charming tiger. What a character! It was no surprise to me that I chose to include a tiger in one of my picture books having loved this one so much since I was little.

What I also really enjoyed about this book was that it made me laugh and ask a lot of questions about things I had never really thought about before. It excited me and made me look at the world a little bit differently. I mean, COULD a tiger appear at your door?

My favourite line from the book is, ‘…and he drank all the water in the tap’. That line shocked me a little bit. I’d never really thought about taps before then. I began to think a lot about taps, and water, and where it came from, and if it might run out, and why it didn’t taste salty like the sea, and if we could put milk in there if the water ran out.

That line still pops into my head sometimes when I’m pouring myself a glass of water. It’s funny the things you seem to remember forever.

Judith Kerr’s books have been my favourite books since I was little and I’ve kept them close by ever since.

At university, I didn’t study children’s literature, creative writing or illustration. This sometimes led to people asking me why I had the ‘Mog’ and ‘The Tiger Who Came to Tea’ (and a rather fetching ‘The Tiger Who Came to Tea’ tea set) in my student flat. The simple response was, ‘Because I love them.’

It was a dream come true when I got to hear Judith Kerr talk at an event and meet her afterwards at the Edinburgh Festival in 2013. Judith had the entire audience, young and old, captivated during her event (she’s very funny!)

Afterwards, I was lucky enough to get to meet Judith and we chatted about Mog and some of my favourite illustrations. I told her that my first picture book had just been published and she asked me about it and listened closely while I (nervously) told her a little bit about Stinkysaurus. I was very pleased when she smiled and said, ‘Well. I think he sounds great.’

If it wasn’t for Judith Kerr’s books I don’t think I’d be writing today. It was her wonderful characters that made me fall in love with picture books.

There were lots of wonderful books I enjoyed child, but none that captured my attention and imagination in the way that Judith Kerr’s books did. There’s obviously something very special about these books (and I’m clearly not the only one who thinks so!)

For me, it’s the strong and vibrant characters that jump off the page and demand to be loved that make these books so special.

I will always be so very grateful to Judith Kerr for sparking my life-long love of picture books and for inspiring me to become a children’s author. And, of course, for giving me Mog.

You can find a fantastic range of Pamela Butchart children’s books on our website, including her upcoming release Yikes, Ticklysaurus! And if Pamela has inspired you to relive your memories of Judith Kerr then you can find a selection of her fantastic children’s books on our website too.

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