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Children’s Book of the Week: The Tiger Who Came to Tea

The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr

What I like about this book:

  • The tiger is a lovely mix of polite and rude. Basically, he’s your basic terrible houseguest who doesn’t realize he’s a terrible houseguest. He’s very gracious — “Excuse me, but I’m very hungry. Do you think I could have tea with you?” — and then he proceeds to eat and drink everything in the house, while little Sophie and her mother watch in somewhat stupefied horror. So: a good primer on the fact that even though some guests can be appalling, you are supposed to just grin and bear it until they leave.
  • The lovely retro life they lead. A milkman (“This week’s special: Farmhouse Chickens”), a grocery boy on a bicycle.
  • That Sophie casually cuddles with the tiger while he’s eating all their stuff.
  • The un-PC-ness of the tiger drinking “all Daddy’s beer.”
  • Sophie’s mom’s fashion sense. I love everything about what this woman is wearing. Green shirtdress, blue knit cardigan, striped grey tights, blue/grey ballet slippers, hair in a messy bun. When she adds a bright orange mandarin collar jacket and small pink structured handbag I just about die with envy. I would wear the entire outfit tomorrow. Love it. Plus also love her net shopping bag and her awesome wheeled shopping basket.
  • The Britishness of it. The tiger comes to tea, first of all, and then eats all the buns (huh?), and all the “packets and tins in the cupboard” (what?).

The only thing I don’t like is the other retro notion that Sophie’s daddy somehow gets dinner all to himself. After the tiger leaves, Sophie’s mom frets that she’s “got nothing for Daddy’s supper.” Don’t Sophie and Mummy get to eat supper? Or do they just fill up on sandwiches, biscuits, and buns at tea? It seems a little odd.

But don’t let that one tiny bit stop you! This book is deliciously charming. I’d want to live in it, if it weren’t for, you know, the giant tiger who comes in and eats all their food (although I do have some fantasies about a tiger eating all the food in our refrigerator, so I’d have to clean it out and start fresh).

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7 Responses to “Children’s Book of the Week: The Tiger Who Came to Tea”

  1. 1
    Christina:

    milkmen aren’t too retro- we have one who delivers our milk- in glass bottles- every tuesday morning. And lemonade in summer, cider and eggnog in the fall and winter. Alas, no grocery boy though- I wish!

  2. 2
    Julie:

    I’m so jealous, Christina! I keep waiting for them to get a milkman around here. We have two huge milk companies and one independent milk company within 10 miles of us, but no milkman. Sigh. We go through so much milk. And buttermilk for baking.

  3. 3
    Anne:

    I had no idea there were still milkmen anywhere, much less milk in glass bottles. Wow.

    This book (which I keep meaning to check out) reminds me of one that Sam is currently loving: The Tiger in the Teapot. It was one of my favorite books as a kid. A tiger shows up in a family’s very large teapot just as they are trying to set up their afternoon tea. (It’s very British.) Everyone takes turns haranguing the tiger, but he won’t budge until littlest sister Josie arrives on the scene and pays the tiger a nice compliment and invites him to have tea with them. Meanwhile, all the characters (drawn by William Pene DuBois) are all awesomely clad in 1960s British fashion. The “three middle boys” look sort of like the Beatles. Youngest sister Josie has the most spectacular little white hat topped with three cherries. Love, love, love this book.

  4. 4
    Julie:

    Yeah, Anne, there’s been a real resurgence in milkmen over the past few years (as part of the whole locavore thing). Here’s one in Danbury that also delivers bacon, butter, ice cream, and bread: http://www.marcusdairy.com/index.html

    I will definitely check out the Tiger in the Teapot. It sounds like the sister companion on to The Tiger Who Came to Tea.

  5. 5
    emily:

    christina where do you live that you get glass bottles of milk? as liz lemon says, I want to go there! also to portland, jules, but glass bottles of milk….if it’s on the east coast, christina’s town is a strong contender for my dream locale.

  6. 6
    Christina:

    ah sorry Emily- not on the east coast- Longmont, Colorado- just outside of Boulder. We just moved here and we love it. It seems to have a number of holdovers from the past like the milkman- parades on all holidays, concerts in the park, etc. We also get over 300 days of sunshine a year which I fully appreciate after several years spent in rainier places.

  7. 7
    Anne:

    Emily, click on Julie’s Marcus Dairy link. You can move to Connecticut and get glass bottles of milk delivered to you here!

    (I always think of Marcus Dairy as the suppliers of grade-school cafeteria milk.)

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