If there's a child in your house or in your own heart you probably already know about Tasha Tudor.
She calls herself an illustrator, not an artist, but there are those who would disagree. Tudor has been illustrating children's books for half a century, classics such as "The Secret Garden" and "A Little Princess." She also writes and illustrates her own stories "Pumpkin Moonshine," for example, and "A is for Annabelle" and "Corgiville Fair." If you search for "Tasha Tudor" on Amazon.com on the Web, more than 90 titles come up.
Now, for the first time, Tudor has allowed a documentary team to film her daily life for an intimate portrait to air on public television, WCVE-TV channel 23, on Christmas Day at 1 p.m. What you'll see is a prim and proper birdlike woman in her 80s, with the soul of a rebel under her 19th-century bonnet.
Tudor is a woman of many parts, a gardener, philosopher, cook, naturalist, spinner and weaver, candlemaker and mother, who dresses as a gentlewoman of the last century and lives by herself in "Corgi Cottage" in a remote corner of Vermont. It is there that she works at her illustrations, convinced that she has lived before, "in the 1830s," because everything from that time comes so easily to her.
"Take Joy: The Magical World of Tasha Tudor," which won first prize in children's programming at the U.S. International Film Festival, is a beautifully drawn study of a remarkable woman who lives a life that seems to be touched by magic.
"I have a mouse morgue in my freezer. They had fallen in the rain barrels and were not discovered until they were wrapped in death. Do you want to see it?" she asks. She thaws the tiny bodies and positions them for her illustrations.
Is she merely an eccentric old lady, out of touch with reality? Is she an authentic artist, touched by something miraculous?
Or does it matter? For whatever else she may be, she is surely a national
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