Children’s literature: first a tiger came to tea, now a seal is coming home

Judith kerr, author of school-library favourite The Tiger Who Came To Tea has written her first illustrated children’s novel in 37 years.

The writer, who recently turned 92, has produced her first children’s novel since A Small Person Far Away in 1978.

Mister Cleghorn’s Seal, which will be published on 10 September, tells the story of a man who, on a visit to the seaside, rescues a seal pup named Charlie. Inevitably, chaos and adventures ensue.

The character of Mr Cleghorn is based on Ms Kerr’s father Alfred, who once took in an abandoned seal pup.

Ann-Janine Murtagh, of HarperCollins children’s books, which will publish the new book, said she was surprised and delighted by the arrival of the manuscript.

“On reading the very first few pages of the story, I knew we had something extraordinarily special and simply had to publish right away,” she said. “Mister Cleghorn’s Seal is a small masterpiece of words and pictures.”

The book will also be published in an audio edition, narrated by actor Bill Nighy, and with an afterword from Ms Kerr. A sample of this can be listened to online.

Ms Kerr has written a number of picture books, including Mog the Forgetful Cat. Her most famous work, in which a tiger eats a family’s entire supply of food, was published in 1968, and recently came 21st in the TES list of 100 fiction books all children should read before leaving primary school. In 1971, she published When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, a memoir of her flight from Nazi Germany.

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