word craft


Remembering Natalie Babbitt

Natalie BabbittI was ter­ri­bly sad­dened to learn of the death of Natal­ie Bab­bitt. In the days when I lived in Prov­i­dence, Rhode Island, we became good friends.

She had a very rich tal­ent, but was utter­ly mod­est, indeed painful­ly (to me) self-effac­ing about her skills. She did not attend the award cer­e­mo­ny when she won (1971) a New­bery Hon­or for Knee-knock Rise. “How come you did­n’t go?” I asked her. “I was told it was­n’t important.”

As I knew her—and every­one knows such a rich­ly com­plex per­son in a dif­fer­ent way—she pre­sent­ed her­self as an artist, and then a writer.  “I nev­er start writ­ing until I have the com­plete book in my head,” she once told me.  Yet she would tell me about end­less dis­cus­sions with her long-time edi­tor, Michael Di Capua, about one word in her text.

I would try to encour­age her to write more. “Why should I?” she replied. “I’ll nev­er write any­thing as good as Tuck Ever­last­ing.” Think of that book, and then con­sid­er anoth­er remark she once made to me: “Peo­ple are always alone.” Yet she had a sly, sharp, and satir­ic sense of humor.

Loy­al?  When I knew her, she watched, on tele­vi­sion, every—every—Boston Red Sox game.

Our homes in Prov­i­dence were at oppo­site ends of beau­ti­ful Ben­e­fit Street, and we often met for lunch, or at her house. We nev­er met at my house, because, as she said, “Ladies don’t do that.” Indeed, when I went west to Col­orado, one of the last things she said to me was, “Just know I won’t call or write. Ladies don’t call gen­tle­men.”  She didn’t.

She was quite a lady.

2 thoughts on “Remembering Natalie Babbitt”

  1. TUCK EVERLASTING is pitch-per­fect book. She’s left her lega­cy … thank you for these mem­o­ries and this peek into her life and values.


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