Natalie Babbitt, who died on October 31, 2016, was best known for her timeless fantasy, Tuck Everlasting (1975). The story of a family who has drunk from the spring of eternal life and the 10-year-old girl who discovers them, the novel grapples with the kinds of thought-provoking issues that were just starting to be found in middle-grade fiction at the time: life, loss, violence, death. Young readers were asked to ponder an age-old question: Would you live forever if you could?
Babbitt was one of the writers who came on the scene during a golden-age of children’s literature, the late 1960s and 1970s, when readers were meeting Katherine Patterson, Judy Blume, Virginia Hamilton, Robert Cormier, Paul Zindel, William H. Armstrong, and so many classics were born. Perhaps more than her peers, she wrote with a sense of whimsy; Babbitt was one of those wonderful authors, who deserves the title, “storyteller.” As Betsy Hearne said in her Booklist review of Tuck Everlasting, “With great care, Babbitt crafts words into places, people, and events that seem to have emerged from an untrampled imagination.”
Tuck Everlasting, which has been made into two movies and a Broadway novel, has achieved its own immortality. As for Babbitt, maybe these words from the book should be her legacy to all of us. “Don’t be afraid of death; be afraid of the unlived life. You don’t have to live forever, you just have to live.”
Here are Booklist reviews of Babbitt’s last published works:
Bub; or, The Very Best Thing