Accolade to Tasha Tudor
What makes young children's books so memorable that an adult will appear in our bookstore with the urge to once again have and hold a certain book? Not surprisingly, the illustrations are the strongest memory of these books, even after 30 years or more. Tasha Tudor, author and illustrator, has produced many memories for young children, and is still doing so.
Her first book, Pumpkin Moonshine, published in 1938, was done as a gift for a young niece. The "dummy" book she took to editor Eunice Blake at Oxford University Press was bound in calico cloth. The publishers liked the look so well they produced Tudor's first five books in a calico-look binding, leading collectors to refer to Pumpkin Moonshine, Alexander the Gander, Linsey Woolsey, Dorcas Porkus and Country Fair as her "calico books."
Tudor's illustrative style is self-taught and is a direct reflection of her own lifestyle and interest in the early 1800's to the 1860's. Her personal style of dress and agrarian home life reflect a preference for the 1830's; so too, do her illustrations. Her 19th century designs are comforting, taking us back to a time when life was less threatening and complicated. She has illustrated such classics as Little Women, Wind in the Willows, The Little Princess, Mother Goose and The Secret Garden, giving them an authentic simplicity and charm. (A troublesome divorce was also reflected in her artwork at one point, giving her illustrations of that time a darkness and roughness not seen before or after.)
Tudor has been prolific. To date she has produced at least 89 works, most of which were written and illustrated by her. For 30 years she also designed 13 or 14 Christmas cards each year, ending the practice in 1977. She has received two Caldecott Honor Awards, the Regina Medal Award from the Catholic Library Association and an honorary doctorate from the University of Vermont. Tudor's formal education never extended beyond the eighth grade.
For more information on Tasha Tudor, two books are available. Drawn From New England by her daughter Bethany Tudor and The Private World of Tasha Tudor by Richard Brown and Tasha Tudor. The 80-year-old Tudor's life and works are both unusual in the world of memorable children's books.
Copyright 1996 - 2001 C. Dickens Fine, Rare and Collectible Books, Atlanta, Georgia