Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Halloween Book and a Glimpse into Tasha Tudor's Life

Pumpkin Moonshine
Written and Illustrated by: Tasha Tudor
Recommended Ages: 2-6

I recently discovered a very sweet (and very old) Halloween book for young children (2 and 3 year olds). If you have a child celebrating one of their first Halloweens, then by all means check out Pumpkin Moonshine by Tasha Tudor.

Pumpkin Moonshine
was originally published in 1938, and was Tasha Tudor's first book. It tells the story of Sylvie Ann who wants to make a pumpkin moonshine (jack-o-lantern) for Halloween, and sets out to find the biggest pumpkin she can. The book follows Sylvie's quest as she heads up a large hill and across the cornfields. Once she sees the pumpkin, she has to roll it home because it is too large to carry. But it escapes her grasp and rolls down the hill, frightening the various farm animals and knocking Mr. Hemmelskamp to the ground. Finally it comes to a halt, and Sylvie Ann and her Grandpa carve a fierce "pumpkin moonshine" with "a big grinning mouth with horrid crooked teeth."

Pumpkin Moonshine is a small book made for tiny hands, with text on one page and detailed pictures on the other. The illustrations are very sweet and hearken back to a much simpler time. There's nothing scary about this book, and it's a gentle introduction to one of the nicer traditions of Halloween: carving jack-o-lanterns. You really can't go wrong with Pumpkin Moonshine.

If you and your child discover that you like the text and illustrations of Tasha Tudor, then please check out some of her other picture books. Here are few to consider: 1 is One, Around the Year and Corgiville Fair.

While you are at it, you might want to pick up The Private World of Tasha Tudor, a rich collection of photographs (by Richard Brown) and text (written by Ms. Tudor), that detail the world that she lived in. Tasha Tudor was born in 1919 and only just died last year. However, she always felt more comfortable in another century:

"I'm drawn to the old ways, convinced that I lived before, in the 1830's. Everything comes so easily to me from that period of that time: threading a loom, growing flax, spinning, milking a cow. Einstein said that time is like a river, it flows in bends. If we could only step back around the turns, we could travel in either direction. When I die, I'm going right back to 1830."

The book chronicles her life on her farm in Vermont. There are beautiful photographs of her garden and the animals, as well as Tasha Tudor herself. She dressed in long dresses, her hair in a kerchief, and was often barefoot. She was the antithesis to the breakneck pace we seem to live these days. I found this book strangely comforting, and it was a reminder to put on a cup of tea, pick up a book and slow things down. I had to keep reminding myself that until last year she lived with us, not back in the 1880's. The book is full of her gentle, and sometimes humorous, wisdom:

"Life isn't long enough to do all you could accomplish. And what a privilege even to be alive. In spite of all the pollutions and horrors, how beautiful this world is. Supposing you only saw the stars once every year. Think what you would think. The wonder of it!"

"Gardening has untold rewards. You never have to go on a diet. At age seventy-six I can still wear my wedding dress and still chin myself. I've never been depressed in my whole life and I've never had a headache. They must be awful. I attribute it to goat's milk and gardening."

"I'm perfectly content. I have no other desires than to live right here with my dogs and my goats and my birds."

"If I have a philosophy, it is one best expressed by Henry David Thoreau: 'If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.' That is my credo. It is absolutely true. It is my whole life summed up."

I think Tasha Tudor would be a fascinating person for a child in the fourth or fifth grade to research and write a report on. I highly recommend checking out The Private World of Tasha Tudor, for a brief glimpse into her intriguing and old-fashioned world.


Montessori Mama said...

I have and LOVE both of these books. What a treasure Tasha Tudor was! Thanks for this post, such a lovely tribute to a favorite of mine.

Robin Gaphni said...

Thanks Jennifer. Tasha Tudor was a gem (and luckily lives on through her books).

apoffenb said...

What a great article about someone I've never heard of, but wish I had earlier! I love the quotes you chose Robin. They left me feeling a bit more peaceful today. Gotta love Thoreau's idea.