The author of Tuck Everlasting, Natalie Babbitt, has died at the age of 84. Her death is certainly a huge blow to the world of children's publishing, and she will dearly missed by all those who were inspired by her work. Through her words and her illustrations, Natalie Babbitt changed so many lives and shaped so many young minds.
Despite being one of the most prolific and celebrated children's authors of the last century, Natalie Babbitt didn't grow up wanting to be a writer. She always wanted to draw, and that creative spirit eventually led her to become an award-winning author and illustrator. Her most famous novel, Tuck Everlasting, came out in 1976, but she wrote many other critically acclaimed novels in the years before and after, including Knee-Knock Rise, which earned her a Newbery Honor, and The Devil's Storybook, a National Book Award finalist. In 2002, her work was introduced to a new generation through the movie adaptation of Tuck Everlasting, and in 2016, a musical inspired by the book began previews on Broadway.
Natalie Babbitt's loss will be felt deeply, but she'll live on forever (like Jesse Tuck!) through her words. As you mourn her loss and celebrate her life, take a look at these facts about Natalie Babbitt — you'll definitely learn something interesting about this fascinating woman.
1. She Always Wanted To Be An Illustrator
Though Natalie Babbitt will probably be remembered best for her writing, she was also a prolific drawer. Her mother, a landscape and portrait painter, gave her art lessons as a child, and Babbitt grew up wanting to be an illustrator. She studied art at Smith College, and collaborated with her husband to illustrate her first book, The Forty-ninth Magician, in 1966. When her husband gave up writing to focus on his academic career, Babbitt took up the pen. The rest is history.
2. She Didn't Write At All As A Child
"I never wrote a word," she said in an interview with Scholastic. "I wrote verse from time to time. But I never wanted to be a writer. I wanted to be a book illustrator. I used to hurry home from school and draw."
3. Her Favorite Of Her Books Is The Only One She Wrote For Adults
Natalie Babbitt wrote one book for adults: Herbert Rowbarge. Coincidentally, that also happens to be her favorite. "I tried to make it a book for kids, but it did not want to go that way," she said. "...It's for women over forty." Of her children's books, Goody Hall is her favorite.
4. She Doesn't Think There's A Lesson To Be Learned From Tuck Everlasting
"I think the book doesn't present any lessons about what's right and what's wrong, but it does point out how difficult these decisions are," she said.
5. The Names In Tuck Everlasting Have Special Meaning
"In Tuck Everlasting, Winnie's last name - Foster - means 'forester,'" she said. "The name Tuck came from a thesaurus and an old dictionary. I wanted a name that meant life and was only one syllable. When I looked it up in my old dictionary, I found that tuck meant life."
6. Her Favorite Books As A Child Were Alice's Adventures In Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass
"I loved them because they didn't have any lessons to teach," she said. In the same interview, Babbitt said that people always ask about the lessons in Tuck Everlasting. She pushed back on the idea that children's literature needed to have a lesson. "I don't think [Tuck] has one," she said. "It presents dilemmas, and I think that's what life does... I think a lot of adults would like to think that things are simple for kids, but that's not so."
7. She Wrote Tuck Everlasting After Being Inspired By Her Daughter
"Babbitt says she was inspired to write the book after a conversation she had with her young daughter. "One day she had trouble sleeping, woke up crying from a nap. And we looked into it together, as well as you can with a 4-year-old, and she was very scared with the idea of dying," she told NPR. "And it seemed to me that that was the kind of thing you could be scared of for the rest of your life. And so I wanted to make sure that she would understand what it was more. And it seemed to me that I could write a story about how it's something that everybody has to do and it's not a bad thing."