She was a weaver, seamstress, candlemaker, goat farmer and gardener. Children's-book illustrator Tasha Tudor, who died on June 18 at age 92 at her home in rural Vermont, was a master of rusticity. But first she was a painter, bringing to life scenes of nature and children inspired by her beloved New England.
Her work is steeped in loopy sweetness, from her first book, Pumpkin Moonshine (1938), in which tiny Sylvie Ann must roll a giant pumpkin across a field, to her last, Corgiville Christmas (2003), which depicts short-limbed pooches preparing for the holidays with amazing dexterity.
She illustrated popular versions of Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden and Clement C. Moore's The Night Before Christmas, establishing her whimsical style for a generation of young readers. Her animals appear perky and knowing, the children scrappy and game. She showed a botanist's eye for detail in the elaborate floral borders framing her poems and stories.
Born in Boston in 1915 to a portrait-painter mother and a father who designed yachts and airplanes, Tudor became obsessed when she was a child with mid--19th century living. She collected costumes from the era and learned its crafts and folkways. As an adult, she lived without running water or electricity until the youngest of her four children was 5. Since 1972, she had lived in a house that her son Seth built using only hand tools.
Two of her nearly 100 books were named to the Caldecott Honor list--a 1944 Mother Goose and 1 Is One, a learn-to-count book that charms even those who learned how long ago. Her simple couplets and light touch with watercolors compel readers to revel in nature's bounty and count the ducks, hummingbirds, apples and stars.