Imagine – Hitler, the Tiger and Me, BBC1 - TV review: tea-drinking tigers and fleeing the Nazis in a life story that's stranger than fiction
Ellen E Jones
Ellen is The Independent's TV critic. She writes a daily review of Last Night's TV and a weekly 'Inside TV' column for the i paper, as well as a column on general topics for the main paper most Wednesdays. Ellen is a former Hollywood correspondent and a contributing editor to Little White Lies, she's written on TV, film, lifestyle, travel and politics for publications including the Guardian, The Times, The Sunday Times, Esquire and Total Film.
Wednesday 27 November 2013
Look up "spry" in the dictionary and you might see a picture of children's author Judith Kerr, who turned 90 this June, but still bounded up the stairs to the her attic study, leaving Imagine host Alan Yentob panting behind her. She also walks around Barnes, in south-west London, for an hour every evening, takes a sip of martini every day at lunch and dismisses the Janet and John learn-to-read series as "boring". My kind of woman.
What a pleasure it was to look at the world through Kerr's eyes for a little while in Imagine – Hitler, the Tiger and Me on BBC1. She hasn't ceased her eager observation for 80-odd years and in that time has produced beautiful sketches, paintings, textiles and illustrations, all almost as lively as the artist herself. It's this creative curiosity, inherited from her father, that has been her lifelong solace. "He was looking at things all the time and if you do that, you don't despair. He would say, 'Yes, this is bad, but it's interesting.'"
Alfred Kerr was a leading Jewish intellectual in pre-war Berlin, but escaped with his family in the nick of time. The Nazis came to power the day after they left for England. On a trip back to her childhood home, Judith told the little girl now living there about her wartime experience, "It wasn't so sad, it was very interesting." In fact, as she later acknowledged, the trauma of these years cast a long shadow over her family, especially her mother, who bore the greatest amount of stress and attempted suicide several times. Kerr drew on this these years in her semi-autobiographical books for older children, When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit and The Other Way Round.
This Imagine was an example of the increased cultural significance children's books are now accorded and it's good to see. Making children laugh is a noble pursuit.
As Michael Rosen, another great in the genre, usefully pointed out, there are darker shades in Kerr's work too. In a literary form where most characters drift on forever in a kind of permanent stasis, it was radical to kill off beloved cat Mog, but like all the best authors of books for children, Kerr has no time for sentiment.
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 'Cheeky' Nando's under fire for apparently coming onto a customer on Twitter
- 2 Playboy model April Summers speaks out about being a victim of revenge porn
- 3 There is something wrong but very right about this Bible illustration
- 4 iPhone 'effective power' text: how to be safe from iOS bug that lets people crash your phone
- 5 Man jumps into bear pen at zoo, fights bear and loses
Jay Z's Tidal could be about to lose Beyonce's music in ultimate humiliation
Royal Academy of Arts' Tim Marlow: Bronze statue of lovers embracing at St Pancras station is a lesson in 'how not to do' public art
Britain's Hardest Grafter: Petition set up as Twitter reacts to BBC 'poverty porn' series pitting low-paid workers against each other
Britain's Got Talent 2015: Jamie Raven divides Twitter as fans expose mind-boggling magic trick
Big Brother contestant Aaron Frew removed from house for 'inappropriate behaviour' after flashing fellow contestants
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
David Starkey 'tells Amal Clooney to shut up and stop over-promoting human rights'