Tasha Tudor's Storybook Farm
Tasha Tudor, author and illustrator of books for children, recently passed away at 92. An illustrator of more than 100 books, she lived in New England for her entire life, raising her four children on a New Hampshire farm without electricity or running water for many years. She worked in her small kitchen, while outside on the farm were the animals, which, like her children, became characters in her books. The following Yankee Classic about the farm is from October 1957.
“Pekin White was a large and handsome drake whose wife Matilda Paddleford was a beautiful, white duck. Pekin was the particular friend of a little rooster called Biggity Bantam. And there were other farm friends too, like Flatfoot and his family of Toulouse geese; Regal, a Rhode Island Red Rooster and his flock of hens; the soft-eyed Jersey cow, Mrs. Mocha, as well as a family of beagle dogs. And, to be sure, there was a variety of house and barn cats headed by a tom cat with no tail, called Mr. Stubbs. They all lived on a New Hampshire farm belonging to the Warner family, and most of these creatures were the pets of the Warner children, Bill, Ralph, Helen and Emily.”
So opens a charming children’s book entitled Pekin White, written by Thomas L. McCready, Jr. and beautifully illustrated by his wife, Tasha Tudor. Two other books, Mr. Stubbs and Biggety Bantam recount further adventures of the Warner children and their animal friends and are so cleverly written and illustrated that they have delighted thousands of young readers — and their parents. But if these young people only knew that the “Warner” children were real and their adventures true, I have no doubt that their eyes would pop with amazement. But they are true and everything is real, except the names of the Warner family. In reality, Mr. And Mrs. “Warner” are Tom and Tasha McCready and Bill, Ralph, Helen and Emily are really Seth, Tom, Bethany and Efner McCready. The names of the animals are not fictitious and if you visit the McCready farm in Webster, New Hampshire, you can see them today. Biggity Bantam still crows his way about the farm; Pekin and Matilda Paddleford still splash in their pool; Mr. Stubbs and his nephew, Young Stubbs, greet visitors with a mew; and the cows graze contentedly in the rolling fields about the farm. They are a little older, as are the children, but the rollicking, carefree spirit of the McCready menage is just the same as a few years ago when the books were written.
Tom and Tasha McCready are gentle, sensitive people with an ability to look at the world through children’s eyes. To say the way of life at the McCready farm is slightly old fashioned is to compliment them, for they make their own fun, enjoy themselves as a family and seem to have a happier look on their faces than is normally seen in this jet powered age. Tasha is a lovely person who goes about her daily chores with disarming grace. She has been the subject of many of Nell Dorr’s beautiful photographs, some of which appeared in the international photo exhibit “The Family of Man.” An artist of long standing, her illustrations of Tom’s books, of children’s classics such as Mother Goose and A Child’s Garden of Verses, books by other authors, as well as those she has written, are charmingly simple yet show the detail which so delights young readers. Quite recently, Tasha has begun to paint portraits of children and a few adults. Tasha works almost every day at her drawing board and the children try to give her the quiet she needs. However, she is not averse to having Mr. Tweedie, Bethany’s tame starling, visit her while she paints and he frequently hops to the back of a chair and watches with beady eyes.
Tom’s life at the farm is mainly taken up with the operation of The Ginger and Pickles Store, which is located at one end of the large farmhouse. This store, named for Beatrix Potter’s book of that title, contains all the books written and illustrated by the McCreadys, Christmas cards, postal cards, note paper and stationery designed by Tasha, as well as a hodgepodge of imported toys and miniature animals. All these are for sale at the store as well as through mail order, which Tom hopes will become an important part of their business. Then there is the Doll Museum, which is really a huge doll house inhabited by Capt. and Mrs. Ethan Shakespeare. The doll house is twenty-five feet long and five feet high and contains most of Capt. Shakespeare’s family, including numerous relatives. The furniture is in perfect scale, and some of the items are priceless, such as the Steuben decanters made especially for the Shakespeare household. The doll house is a result of Tasha’s love for dolls. This she has passed on to her children. She and the children have spent many painstaking hours dressing the dolls, collecting the antique furniture and decorating the Shakespeare home. The result is a display guaranteed to enchant even the most callow visitor and there are thousands of visitors every year!
The Ginger & Pickles Store is open May 30th to December 20th, daily from nine to five. To get to it, go to the Hopkinton, New Hampshire, Post Office and ask for directions. Better yet, write for the Ginger and Pickles Store catalog which contains a map.
Editor’s note: This story is a reprint from 1957. The Ginger & Pickles Store is closed. For more about Tasha Tudor, please go to tashatudorandfamily.com