Biography

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 437

Natalie Zane Moore was born on July 28, 1932, in Dayton, Ohio. Her ancestors on both sides came to North America in the 1600s and two of them, Isaac Zane, the White Eagle of the Wyandottes, and Zebulon Pike, the discoverer of Pike's Peak, were renowned adventurers and explorers. Others among her ancestors founded towns throughout West Virginia and Ohio.

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Babbitt's father, Ralph Moore, worked in the field of labor relations, but, due in part to the Great Depression and in part, perhaps, to his wife Genevieve's desire that the family better themselves, he switched jobs frequently throughout the 1930s and 1940s. Babbitt has often emphasized the enormous effect that these moves from city to city had on the formation of her personality and on her later writing. Her stories tend to be about young people who, for one reason or another, are lost or separated from home.

In 1954, soon after graduating from Smith College with a degree in art, Natalie Moore married Samuel Babbitt, who became a successful university administrator, holding positions at Yale, Vanderbilt, Kirkland College (where he was president), and Brown. She settled down to the life of a university administrator's wife, hostessing parties and raising three children. In 1964 Babbitt, frustrated and bored, read Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique, a book that reawakened her long dormant desire to be an artist.

Her first professional publication. The Forty-Ninth Magician, a picture book of her illustrations with text by her husband, appeared in 1966 and was well received. Babbitt wrote and illustrated two more picture books, Dick Foote and the Shark (1967) and Phoebe's Revolt (1968), before beginning work on her first children's novel, The Search for Delicious (1969), which was chosen by the New York Times as the best novel of the year for nine to twelve-year-olds.

Natalie Babbitt has said that she doesn't consider herself a professional writer, by which she means that she doesn't write primarily for the money. This independence from the financial side of the publishing business has allowed her to craft, slowly and carefully, a series of fine works for older children and young adults. Kneeknock Rise (1970) was a Newbery Honor Book. The Devil's Storybook (1974) was nominated for the National Book Award. In 1976 Tuck Everlasting won the Christopher Award; and her life's work in children's literature earned her the important George G. Stone Award in 1978. In 1982 Herbert Rowbarge appeared, Babbitt's personal favorite among all her works, and in 1987 The Devil's Other Storybook, a sequel to her earlier, award-nominated collection, was published. Babbitt and her husband currently divide their time between homes in Providence, Rhode Island, and Cape Cod. Virtually all of her books remain in print.

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