Natalie Zane Babbitt (née Moore; July 28, 1932 – October 31, 2016) was an American writer and illustrator of children's books. Her acclaimed 1975 novel Tuck Everlasting has been adapted into two feature films and a Broadway musical. She received the Newbery Medal and Christopher Award, and was the U.S. nominee for the biennial international Hans Christian Andersen Award in 1982.
Born Natalie Zane Moore in Dayton, Ohio, on July 28, 1932, Babbitt studied at Laurel School in Cleveland and Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. She was married to Samuel Fisher Babbitt, and the couple had three children, born between 1956 and 1960. The family lived in Samuel's home town of New Haven, Connecticut, until he earned a PhD in 1965 and became the president of Kirkland College in Clinton, Oneida County, New York.
The Babbitts collaborated to create The Forty-ninth Magician, a picture book that he wrote and she illustrated, published by Pantheon Books in 1966. Samuel became too busy to participate but editor Michael di Capua, at Farrar, Straus and Giroux, encouraged Natalie to continue producing children's books. After writing and illustrating two short books in verse, she turned to children's novels, and her second effort in that vein, Knee-Knock Rise, was awarded a Newbery Honor in 1971.
Tuck Everlasting, published in 1975, was named an ALA Notable book and continues to be popular with teachers. It was ranked number 16 among the “Top 100 Chapter Books” of all time in a 2012 survey published by School Library Journal. Two of her books have been adapted as movies: Tuck Everlasting twice, in 1981 and 2002, and The Eyes of the Amaryllis in 1982. The novel was also adapted as a Broadway musical, which premiered in Atlanta on February 4, 2015, and played on Broadway from April 26 to May 29, 2016.
In addition to her own writing, Babbitt also illustrated a number of books by Valerie Worth. Babbitt died on October 31, 2016, at her home in Hamden, Connecticut. She had recently been diagnosed with lung cancer.
In 1977, The New York Times called Babbitt “Indisputably one of our most gifted and ambitious writers for children”.
In 1982, another Times reviewer, George Woods, enjoyed Babbitt's Herbert Rowbarge. “Mrs. Babbitt creates a plausible world and peoples it with believable humans, but the most satisfaction comes from the pleasure of her company as she effortlessly takes the reader in velvet-gloved hand to point out life's coincidences and near misses.”
In 2002, Melanie Rehak, also writing in the Times, described Babbitt's Tuck Everlasting as a “slim, ruminative” novel, and stated that “From the moment it appeared, it has been fiercely loved by children and their parents for its honest, intelligent grappling with aging and death.”
In 2012, Babbitt was awarded the inaugural E.B. White Award for achievement in children's literature by the American Academy of Arts and Letters.