Skip to content

Natalie Babbitt

Natalie Babbitt. Natalie was born in Dayton, Ohio on July 28, 1932.  Her works of fiction were inspired by her early love of reading myths and fairy tales, as well as the absurd world of Alice in Wonderland.  Her parents were also major influences on her work.  Her mother, an amateur landscape and portrait painter, spurred her love of drawing, but it was her father’s playful use of language that inspired her writing.  She grew up wanting to be an illustrator and specialized in art at Laurel School in Cleveland, Ohio and at Smith College. Shortly after graduating from college, Natalie married Samuel Fisher Babbitt, an academic administrator, and spent the next ten years in Connecticut, Tennessee, and Washington, D.C., raising Christopher (born in 1956), Tom (1958), and Lucy (1960).

Later, with her children entering school and her reading of Betty Freidan’s The Feminine Mystique, Natalie decided to return to her ambition to be an illustrator.  In 1966, Natalie and Samuel decided to collaborate on a children's book, The Forty-Ninth Magician, just before moving to Clinton, New York where Mr. Babbitt became the first president of Kirkland College. When her husband became too busy with his new job to continue writing, Natalie decided to try being her own author.

In the beginning of her writing career, Natalie believed she would do best with rhyme so she wrote her first two books, Dick Foote and the Shark and Phoebe's Revolt, in verse. Her next book however, The Search for Delicious, which was a long story with roots in fairy tales, was written in prose. Kneeknock Rise and Goody Hall came shortly after. The Something, a picture book which stemmed from her personal distaste for the dark, came between those two novels.

The 1970’s and 80’s were her most fertile period.  She wrote and illustrated The Devil's Storybook and The Devil's Other Storybook, illustrated five books for Valerie Worth, four of which are poetry books and have been published together in All the Small Poems, and also wrote three novels: The Eyes of the Amaryllis, Herbert Rowbarge, and the classic Tuck Everlasting.

Natalie shifted her focus once more to illustration and produced Nellie: A Cat on Her Own, her first full color picture book praised in a Booklist review as "a charming fantasy with the same graceful and precise language as Tuck Everlasting."

At this point in close succession, Natalie became the grandmother of three (Peter, Maggie, and Tess), and her next three works (Bub, or The Very Best ThingElsie Times Eight, and Jack Plank Tells Tales) feature each child in the illustrations, as well as other family members (play adaptor Mark Frattaroli is the model for the king in Bub.) Natalie’s last published novel was Moon Over High Street in 2012.  After battling Alzheimer’s and lung cancer, she died on October 31, 2016 with her family at her side.  The wheel has moved on.