Why Natalie Babbitt is so Everlasting

Tuck Everlasting

Tuck Everlasting (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Seems like once I start writing about writers it’s hard to stop. Another of my favorites is Natalie Babbitt, author of Tuck Everlasting and lots more. I discovered her only as an adult, which is actually when I started reading a lot of YA fiction, and the rhythmic, beautiful opening of that book just stopped me: “The first week of August hangs at the very top of the summer, the top of the live-long year . . .” The lyricism of her prologue is so beautiful I’ve gone back to it over the years, just to hear it again. Then, in her first chapter, the road becomes a character, bringing you into the town and the story. What a stroke of genius! I would have been sold on that novel alone, but I soon read The Devil’s Storybook and The Search for Delicious, both full of her wry sense of humor and lovable characters (even the Devil kind of grows on you!).

Then there’s Pheobe’s Revolt, a picture book about a girl in 1904 who rebels against bows and frills. Entirely in rhyme, the book is one of those gems that surprise you with sheer cleverness:

“In nineteen-four, at any rate,
Phoebe Euphemia Brown was eight.
Her trouble all began in June,
While getting dressed one afternoon.
For Phoebe, who was mostly good
And often did the things she should
Stepped forward in her underwear
With mingled passion and despair
And loudly said she hated bows
And roses on her slipper toes.”

Copyright © 1989 by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

Historical fiction for elementary school, all in rhyme and with pictures. Now I ask you, how many writers can do that?