Mog the Forgetful Cat written and illustrated by Judith Kerr

Judith Kerr, who died in 2019 at the age of ninety-five, was born in Berlin, Germany in 1923 . Her father, Alfred Kerr, was one of city's the most important drama critics before the whole family was forced to flee the Nazis in 1933 and eventually made a new home in England in 1936. In 1971 she wrote the semi-autobiographical novel for children, When Hitler Stole the Pink Rabbit. While I didn't read When Hitler Stole the Pink Rabbit until I was an adult, I grew up with Kerr's most famous creation, the phlegmatic Mog. Published in 1970, Mog the Forgetful Cat is one of the few books from my childhood that left a lasting impression on me. Mog assured me that animals, like children, can be an integral and important part of a family, even when they are messy, break things and require special attention.
Judith Kerr's ability to capture aspects of felineness, be it forgetfulness or single-minded persistence, is superb. In her first book, Mog is locked out of the house again and again because she forgets about the cat door, despite the fact that that is the very door through which she leaves the house. While Mog's family is frustrated by her behavior - and the fact that she keeps crushing the flowers in the window box - her forgetfulness pays off when she startles a burglar and saves the silver.
Probably because it reminds me of the antics of my own cats, my favorite book in the series, Mog and Bunny, is about Mog's beloved toy, which begins to look like a naked mole rat after she chews on it, and all of the inconvenient, unsettling places she leaves it. When bunny is trapped in the garden at the start of a rainstorm Mog refuses to come inside. Unsure as to why she insists on staying outside the Thomas's go inside. In the middle of the night, Debbie and Nicky wake up wondering where Mog is. They head out into the garden and find their soggy cat mewling at her trapped toy. Every one dries off, warms up and has a big sleep. In addition to the spot-on presentation of cat attitude and behavior, I love Kerr's cozy domesticity. Her illustrations are simple but sweet and not totally timeless. A bit of the 1970s seeps through now and again, as does a bit of Britishness.

In 2002, Kerr published Goodbye Mog, in which Mog decides it's time to take the long nap. In her lovely obituary/book review, Kate Kellaway writes of Mog:

Self-pity was Mog's forte: she was a virtuoso at sulking, especially in snow. She enjoyed splendid health but small setbacks alarmed her. A thorn in her paw (Mog and the Vee Ee Tee) once caused her distress, particularly when the vet became involved. Mog was a dreamer. Her subconscious was dark, hyperactive and populated with marauding wildlife (Mog in the Dark ; Mog's Amazing Birthday Caper). She might have made a subject for Jungian analysis - were it not that she would have been inclined to go to sleep or worse (see Mog's Bad Thing ) on the couch. Mog had a rather unsettled relationship with food: she was a picky eater, a protester who frequently went on hunger strike, upsetting the Thompsons. She would often say "no" to fish - although her passion for eggs never diminished. Mog suffered from jealousy (she could be a green-eyed monster) and had difficulty enduring a variety of imposters: a baby, a family of foxes, a cat called Tibbles... ( Mog and the Granny). And yet her biographer, Judith Kerr, maintains that Mog was both "a good cat" and "a career cat". It is true that her achievements were considerable, not least when it is remembered that they were all accidental. In 1970, she won a medal for surprising a burglar.

In between the first Mog and the last, there are eight other books available in the US and seventeen in total, for you rare book hunters out there.  Mog on Fox Night is another of my favorites in which a family of neighborhood foxes learns how to use the cat flap that so often eludes Mog.

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