Purpose of this Blog...

You may have noticed that not all books are equal in capturing children's imaginations and in cultivating those innocent, tender souls. My goal is to help you find the ones that do!
(Painting by Mary Cassatt: "Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren" -1888)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


There are two very successful women author/illustrators whose endearing children's books were a result of their rather unconventional lifestyles as artists and homesteaders in New England in the mid 1900's. Unlike the glamorous Hollywood women of movies and television, these mothers lived a rural lifestyle of gardening, raising sheep, cooking, sewing, nurturing their children, and painting. The first is Virginia Lee Burton. The second is Tasha Tudor.

Virgina Lee Burton, after writing for her high school newspaper, winning a scholarship to the California School of Fine Arts and Design, and taking ballet class, ended up going to Boston Museum School of Fine Arts and enrolling in drawing classes. She married her teacher, George Demetrios, a sculptor, and moved to Folly Cove in Gloucester, Massachusetts.

Besides her full life of country living, music, dance, and friends, Burton began writing and illustrating for children and said that most of her subject material came directly from things she had seen or experienced in her own life. She would sketch her book illustrations in her studio first and then write the text. Her son said, "As my mother wrote...she read portions to me, my brother, and a handful of other neighborhood children, to test it out...she knew she had the right text when all the kids were attentive until the end."

Tasha Tudor, on the other hand, drew her sketches first and then made up the stories to go with them. She also lived in New England. She resided first in a farmhouse in New Hampshire and later in Vermont, in a world of her own creation. Her drawings reflected her surroundings of a life that would have been lived in the mid 1800's: she spun and wove flax into cloth, sewed her own wardrobe of long dresses and skirts, cooked on a wood-burning stove, dipped her own candles, kept an orchard, flower and vegetable garden, geese and ducks, and milked her own goats.

Tudor, like Burton, attended Boston Museum School of Fine Arts. She wrote and illustrated close to 100 children's books, two of which received Caldecott Medals - MOTHER GOOSE, (1945) and 1 IS ONE (1957). Her pictures are old fashioned and enchanting, painted in soft colors, with lots of animals and children in country farm scenes.

Unlike Tudor's style, Burton's art is bright, detailed, and symmetrical. It often features large - female - machines (such as the steam shovel Mary Anne, the cable car Maybelle, and Katy the tractor) and humanized objects (like the Little House) which must survive industrial growth and challenges. Her book The Little House won a Caldecott Medal in 1942.

Besides working on her books, Virginia Lee also taught lessons in art and textile design to her neighbors. Out of this came the Folly Cove Designers, who went on to become a nationally known artistic community in the tradition of the Arts and Crafts Movement!

Tasha Tudor went on to illustrate Christmas and Valentine cards, as well as calendars. She brought to life with her pictures several stories by other famous authors...including, The Wind in the Willows, The Secret Garden, A Little Princess, and A Child's Garden of Verses. These books would not be the same without her enchanting illustrations!

For a detailed account of the life of Virginia Lee Burton, who died of cancer at the age of 60, look for the book A LIFE IN ART, by Barbara Elleman. For more information on Tasha Tudor, her books, and her legacy (she died at the age of 92), go to http://www.tashatudorandfamily.com/, or read THE PRIVATE WORLD OF TASHA TUDOR, by Tasha Tudor and Richard Brown .


  1. Nice. i was not familiar with all of these.

  2. Thanks so much for pointing me in the direction of a new artist and illustrator! I'll definitely look into more about Virginia Lee Burton!