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26 Terrific Books by Tasha Tudor: My Evaluation

John Hare

1938       Pumpkin Moonshine. Humor, truth and love regarding a very small Sylvie Ann and her Halloween Jack O'Lantern. Originally the special gift for the young niece of Tudor's husband, and then a pocket-sized book from Oxford University Press, New York, Inc.. This and four succeeding titles constitute Tudor's "calico books."
 
1940       The County Fair. In these charming vignettes Sylvie and her brother Tom take their entries to the County Fair - and come home with ribbons. Tudor's exquisite eye for detail in antique furnishings is evident.
 
1941       A Tale for Easter. Tudor creates her own Easter fantasy with a baby fawn and other flora and fauna, all in the tiniest brilliant-colored hues. Set in a quiet peaceful past. First of the larger books, 6 x 7."
 
            Snow Before Christmas. A series of country scenes. In this book we first see Tudor's hearthside roaster and Christmas trees that will reappear in many books during the next 60 years.
 
1944       Mother Goose. 76 traditional nursery rhymes skillfully illustrated to represent New England's past; Tudor introduces history to readers in many of her books. A Caldecott Honor Book in 1945. Half color, half black & white illustrations.
 
1945       Fairy Tales from Hans Christian Andersen. Tudor's first full size octavo book. 31 stories are each introduced by a pencil drawing, plus 10 full color plates. Again, a parlor Christmas tree.
 
1947       A Child's Garden of Verses. Another mix of pencil and watercolor illustrations. One drawing based on a Nell Dorr photograph of her grandson Christopher Ashe. Color plates in this book are the first introduction of borders very much like those H. Willebeek Le Mair painted in the early 20th century.
 
1950       The Dolls' Christmas. Dolls were one of Tudor's earliest passions. She combines her old dolls and her young daughters in a fancy of children and their toys. Features family friends as models.
 
1952       First Prayers. Not quite so small as the calico books, this is nonetheless a lovely homage to the Christian faith and small children. Borders, New Hampshire mountains, expressive pencil drawings and delicate watercolors. Published in both Catholic and Protestant editions.
 
1954       Biggity Bantam. The first of 5 autobiographical children's books written by husband Thomas L. McCready, Jr., and illustrated by Tudor, depicted family life at their Webster, New Hampshire, farm.
 
            A is For Annabelle. A perfect book about little girls and their dolls that also introduces a wardrobe, piece by piece, letter by letter. The floral borders make this a treasure hunt for gardeners; each page has a new flower to identify and each accurately painted.
 
1955       First Graces. It would be easy to call this a genre book; it is a companion book to First Prayers, after all. But there is such a loveliness and innocence in its children's faces, it has its own place among the best.
 
1957       Around the Year. Here are some of Tudor's most delicious colors richly depicting one of her favorite devices - month-by-month activities on a nineteenth century farm. She could be the 20th century's foil to Currier and Ives!
 
1958       And It Was So. Tudor continues to develop the simple twig frames she used in the 1957 entry. Characterizing Biblical verses in modern settings, these children are among the sweetest, most tender and loving that Tudor has ever created.
 
1960       Becky's Christmas. The excitement of preparing for Christmas - the way the McCreadys did it - includes Advent calendars, an Advent wreath above the table, a creche in the brick oven and blue Canton for tea.
 
1962       The Secret Garden. A great story coupled with Tudor's illustrations (influenced by a year in England) has kept this book in print for almost a half century. The printings are a bookseller's worst nightmares come true. They carry no clues as to their age or sequence of publication.
 
1964       Wings from the Wind. We'll show our prejudice and say this is our favorite. Four full page color plates and a staggering abundance of pencil drawings throughout this lovely, lovely volume.
 
1966       Take Joy! A tour de force for the Christmas season. Guided into existence by Tudor's able editor and friend Ann Beneduce. Reprints some images previously published on Irene Dash greeting cards.
 
1970       The New England Butt'ry Shelf Almanac. A scrapbook of country lore (again a year's trip across the months) written by New Hampshire neighbor Mary Mason Campbell. They collaborated on two other books.
 
1971       Corgiville Fair. Her companions and ever-present models, corgi dogs, here are granted their own New England village fraught with all the duties, intrigue and triumphs befitting any society. Tudor considers this her greatest achievement. For the first time she paints full pages; no part escapes the stroke of her brush.
 
1974       The Night Before Christmas. The old familiar poem with the Tudor twist, embellished with plenty of corgi action, Tudor toys and special homage to her long-term patron Ned Hills who appears as Santa Claus.
 
1975       The Christmas Cat. Continues the technique of painting full pages and leaving an open painrted ground area, but painted, for the printed text. Written by Tudor's younger daughter Efner with images of her family throughout.
 
1977       A Time to Keep. Yet one more tour across the year celebrating special days every single month.
 
1979       The Springs of Joy. A scrapbook of favorite thoughts, philosophies and sentiments each interpreted through Tudor's brushes. Tudor says the painting of her granddaughter "Laura in the Snow," is among her best.
 
1986       Tasha Tudor's Seasons of Delight. Another seasonal synopsis with a special twist ? it's a pop-up book engineered by Tudor and showing her Vermont house, and herself churning butter.
 
1994       Tasha Tudor's Garden. Text by Tovah Martin and stunning photographs by Richard W. Brown. But the flowers that leap off the page, the choice of color and design of garden are all Tudor's. They are yet one more manifestation of her skills - painting a landscape with a profusion of real flowers.
 

1988 Wm John Hare, Concord, New Hampshire. Adapted from a list originally published in Biblio (3:11 November 1998).

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