The British Children's Library Volume 1 – The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr
One of the joys of parenting abroad, especially as a bookworm, is discovering another country's children's literature. Having unearthed some real treasures, I've taken to buying British friends with kids American books, and vice versa - ordering some of our favourites from home to pass on as gifts to our friends here. But occasionally this has given me pause - these children's classics which are so ingrained in us from our own childhoods that we take them as read might not necessarily translate. Take, for example, Judith Kerr's famously beloved The Tiger Who Came to Tea (first published in 1968) - how does it really read, without the benefit of rose-tinted glasses nostalgic for a Britain of days gone by?
Once upon a time there was a little girl called Sophie, who lived with her dutiful SAHM and her daddy (who went to work in red socks, tartan trousers and a trilby, and was really quite a dandy – a possible cause of Sophie's mummy's frustration on the home-front).
Normally Sophie's mummy was pretty diligent (she kept track of what time the milkman came every day and what day the boy from the grocer was due), but one day the tedium of housewife life finally made her crack and she thought 'f*** it, I can't bear a trip to Sainsbury's right now, I can't be bothered to cook tonight and, what’s more, I can't even be arsed to give Sophie a bath.'
So Sophie's mummy coerced her daughter in to playing along with a massive ruse. They pretended that a tiger – yes, a TIGER! – had knocked on their door asking to be fed and, being the generous hostesses that they were, they had invited him in for tea. To make the plan really fly with Daddy, they scoffed any scraps of food they did have in the house, and polished off any liquid refreshment lying around (including Daddy's beer - a little daytime drinking never hurt anyone, did it?). After a couple of tinnies, Sophie's mummy also couldn't face clearing up her shit-tip of a kitchen, but fortunately this only helped to substantiate the tall tale of the untidy tiger.
The plan worked. When Daddy got home, Sophie and her mummy regaled him with their story of woe and he bought it hook, line and sinker. Being the man of the house, he of course had a 'very good idea.' He suggested that they all put their coats on and go to a café, where they had a lovely supper with sausages, chips and ice cream. Sophie thought it was very funny to go out in her nightie (she had to have it on when Daddy got home as evidence of their 'thwarted attempt' to do the usual bedtime routine) and Sophie's mummy enjoyed a night of no cooking and no washing up, all the while stemming the looming hangover with a decent helping of carbs. A happy result all round.