"It was imprudent of us, in the first place, to become authors. We could have become something regular, but we managed not to.
We were lucky, but we were also determined." Roy Blount Jr

"I don’t change the facts to enhance the drama. I think of it the other way round, the drama has got to fit the facts,
and it’s your job as a writer to find the shape in real life."
Hilary Mantel

Friday, June 20, 2008

Thank you, Tasha

Yesterday I lost--and by losing, found again--someone important in my life. Author and illustrator Tasha Tudor passed away, aged 92, in Vermont. For us in New Hampshire, she has always been a neighbour and is claimed as a local celebrity, having spent many years in Webster. (She settled in Vermont in 1972.) Her daughter Efner--also an author--lives locally.

I've occasionally driven by her former home, a wonderful farmhouse--a friend lives in the area--and I know who presently inhabits it.

When I was little, Tasha's illustrations brought to life the things I loved most--roses, dolls, and animals. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett was my favourite book, closely followed by A Little Princess.

I also read stories about dolls. Some she wrote, like The Dolls' Christmas.
Some she illustrated, like the English ones by Rumer Godden: The Dolls' House. I didn't own that one, but often checked it out of the local library.

There was something about her drawings, a grace and charm, that--at least in my view--kept them from being twee. Meaning I can look at them now, as an adult, and still be as delighted with them as I was so many years ago.

It wasn't till much later that I discovered that the imaginary world Tasha had drawn for me, were to her and her offspring quite real and tangible. She dressed, kept house, gardened, and raised her family as a woman of the 1830's--first in the New Hampshire farmhouse, then on her Vermont property. No electricity. Virtually no mod cons. To some it might seem an eccentric choice. To me, it was a fascinating one.

Her stories inspired me to collect dolls, from a young age. Not just any dolls--the sort of old-fashioned dolls she drew so prettily:

Here's one of mine.

So, for Tasha, and in memory of her, here is this morning's bouquet of Shailer's Provence, also known as Gracilis, a rose dating from 1796.

In this season of roses--and robins, though mine look very different than Mary Lennox's friend--I feel a need to take A Secret Garden down from the shelf again. At a meeting last night I met a Yorkshireman. Talking to him at length I was reminded of my days roaming the moors, to which I was first introduced by Burnett's story.

To any Tasha Tudor friends out there, what was your favourite book, written or illustrated by her?

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