TTLG Author/Illustrator Profiles

Natalie Babbitt

Natalie Babbitt

Natalie Babbitt was born and grew up in Ohio. She spent large amounts of time in those early years reading fairy tales and myths, and drawing. Her mother, an amatuer landscape and portrait painter, provided early art lessons an saw to it that there was always enough paper, paint, pencils, and encouragement. In those days, Mrs. Babbitt wanted only to be an illustrator, and went on to specialize in art at Laurel School in Cleveland and at Smith College. She married Samuel Fisher Babbitt, an academic administrator, right after graduation, and spent the next ten years in Connecticut, Tennessee, and Washington, D.C., raising Christopher (born in 1956), Tom (1958), and Lucy (1960).

She and her husband decided to collaborate on a children's book, The Forty-Ninth Magician (Pantheon, 1966), and then came another move, this time to Clinton, New York, where Mr. Babbitt became the first president of Kirkland College, the women's college coordinate to Hamilton College for men. Finding herself without a writer--college presidents are very busy people--Natalie Babbitt decided to try becoming her own author; and now finds that though she still enjoys illustrating, writing provides an equal challenge and is equally satisfying.

Believing in the beginning that she would do best with rhyme, Mrs. Babbitt wrote her first two books, Dick Foote and the Shark and Phoebe's Revolt, in verse. But The Search for Delicious could only be written in prose; it is a long story which has its roots in all the fairy tales she read as a child. After this came Kneeknock Rise (the reader must decide whether this one is a fantasy or not) and Goody Hall, both novels. The Something, a picture book for young readers, came in between, and the author freely admits that it grew out of her healthy distaste for the dark.

Since that time, Natalie Babbitt has illustrated five books for Valerie Worth. Four of them are poetry books and have been published together in a paperback edition, All the Small Poems. Mrs. Babbitt has written and illustrated two books of stories about the devil called The Devil's Storybook and The Devil's Other Storybook. Between these came three novels: the modern classic Tuck Everlasting, which explores the possibility that endless life may be more of a curse than a blessing; a seashore fantasy, which is really a love story, called The Eyes of the Amaryllis; and Herbert Rowbarge, hailed by PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY as "her crowning achievement". The story of a man who never knows he has a twin brother, it is the ironic and moving depiction of a life ruled by an inexplicable sense of loss.