Twig was just a plain, ordinary little girl who lived on the fourth floor of a “high sort of house” in the city. The back yard behind that house was Twig’s little world. It was a bare little world, with nothing but a dandelion and a stream of drainpipe water to make it beautiful; with nobody but Old Boy, the ice-wagon horse, Old Girl, the cat, and the Sparrows, to keep Twig company.
But one day, out in the alley, Twig found an empty tomato can, with pictures of bright red tomatoes all round it. When it was upside down, it looked like a pretty little house, just the right size for a fairy! Twig stood it upside down next to the dandelion, not far from the stream. And this is the story of what happened in and around that little house one Saturday afternoon.
A story full of magic, full of fun, full of fantasy interwoven with reality, and full of the kind of tenderness which belongs most particularly to the very young. A story both boys and girls will love.
There was a Limited Edition of 200 numbered books signed by Elizabeth Orton Jones, they sold out several years ago but you may still find some from used booksellers. They were part of the 60th Anniversary Edition (2002).
Since the 1940s the author was known by her nickname, which was Twig. A dear woman, she signed every letter to me that way and always included a little twig with red berries.
Elizabeth Orton Jones, nicknamed Twig more than fifty years ago, was born on June 25, 1910 in Highland Park, Illinois.
In the 1940s she moved to a house in Mason, New Hampshire bought with her first royalty check from TWIG. She lived there for more than sixty years. Twig’s childhood dolls and dollhouse were memorialized in Big Susan, these dolls, their furniture and a replica of her dollhouse are on display in the Highland Park Illinois Historical Society. The miniature living room furniture and rug were handmade by Twig’s Grandmother Orton. The original dollhouse was purchased secondhand for seven dollars by Twig’s mother, Jessie Orton Jones, as a gift for her young daughter. It was given away when Twig was a grown woman, being seven and a half feet long it took up too much space in the attic.
Many years later Twig’s physician, Dr. Robert Wellwood, built the replica dollhouse by taking measurements from the illustrations in Big Susan. Twig wrote and illustrated more than 20 books for children, in 1945 she won the Caldecott Medal for Prayer for a Child. She passed away in May, 2005, at the age of 94.
Photograph by John Mills, Jr. Taken in 1942 while working on TWIG.