A gifted artist and writer, Natalie Babbitt’s novels are inspired by a brilliance and imagination that is completely original. She began her career in 1966 with the publication of a picture book, The Forty-Ninth Magician, a collaboration with her husband, Samuel Fisher Babbitt. Her first novel, The Search for Delicious, established her gift for writing magical tales with a more profound meaning embedded within them. Kneeknock Rise earned her a Newbery Honor Medal, but it is Tuck Everlasting which has insured Babbitt’s place in the history of children’s literature.
Babbitt has written six more novels including The Eyes of the Amaryllis and Goody Hall—each one presenting her unique vision of an enchanted world. Her latest novel, Jack Plank Tells Tales, was published in Spring 2007.
Natalie Babbitt lives in Providence, Rhode Island, and is a grandmother of three. When asked what she wants readers to remember about her books, she replied, “the questions without answers.”
|Publisher:||Farrar, Straus and Giroux|
|File size:||776 KB|
|Age Range:||8 - 12 Years|
About the Author
Artist and writer Natalie Babbitt (1932–2016) is the award-winning author of the modern classic Tuck Everlasting and many other brilliantly original books for young people. As the mother of three small children, she began her career in 1966 by illustrating The Forty-Ninth Magician, written by her husband, Samuel Babbitt. She soon tried her own hand at writing, publishing two picture books in verse. Her first novel, The Search for Delicious, was published in 1969 and established her reputation for creating magical tales with profound meaning. Kneeknock Rise earned Babbitt a Newbery Honor in 1971, and she went on to write—and often illustrate—many more picture books, story collections, and novels. She also illustrated the five volumes in the Small Poems series by Valerie Worth. In 2002, Tuck Everlasting was adapted into a major motion picture, and in 2016 a musical version premiered on Broadway. Born and raised in Ohio, Natalie Babbitt lived her adult life in the Northeast.
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Dick Foote and the Shark
Dick Foote was a poet who lived on Cape Cod In the year eighteen seventy-three. He spent all his time in the writing of rhyme And he cared not a straw for the sea.
Dick's father, John Foote, fished for cod in the sea And he thought writing verses was foolish. He'd mutter, "It's bad when you see your own lad Turning lumpish and lack-brained and mulish."
Each morning he'd say, "Put that nonsense away. Come along and go fishing with me. You'll recover out there with the wind blowing fair And the boat skipping rope with the sea!"
And he'd say, "Why, my boy, it's a positive joy When you lay out the trawl and the bait, And the codfish crowd in, gill to gill, fin to fin, With never a care for their fate."
But Dick would say, "Father, I'd just be a bother. I don't know a whale from a whiting. I'd much rather stay in the cottage today And work on this poem I'm writing."
So his father would go, looking cross as a crow (Every morning it seemed to get worse), And alone once again with his paper and pen, Dick Foote would sit down and write verse.
Now, regardless of what old John Foote may have thought, Dick wrote with emotion and style And the people in town used to ask him on down To recite every once in a while.
Permit me to quote from a poem he wrote On the Fourth of July, for example — A work patriotic, if rather hypnotic With rhymes, of which this is a sample:
"As we gather today On the Fourth of July, As we gather so gay 'Neath the blue summer sky, Let it not slip away From our memories why We are gathered today On the Fourth of July.
"Pause a moment, I pray, And your pleasures put by. Let your memories stray To that other July. Let's remember the fray; Let's remember the cry. To our country, I say! Happy Birthday, say I!"
Thus Dick won for his name some small measure of fame, But the pleasure it might have imparted Was dimmed by the pain of his father's disdain, Which left him upset and downhearted.
Things continued this way till one morning in May. At his desk Dick had started to snore (In the midst of an ode to a tree down the road) When a gentleman knocked at the door.
"I've come from New Bedford," the gentleman said, "Where your verse has a fine reputation. We want to commission a new composition To read at our next celebration.
"We want it to be about fish, and the sea, And the fleet we are planning to bless. We'd be pleased and content if you'd give your consent!" And Dick, very flattered, said yes.
But then, later on when the good man had gone And Dick had got used to the notion That his was a name of distinction and fame, Yes, then he remembered — the ocean!
The wet, wavy sea! Did he know it? Not he. To be honest, it filled him with dread. He only liked fish if they came on a dish, And boats gave him aches in the head.
Still, thinking a bit, he was forced to admit That he'd have to give up and go out, For he felt that it might be dishonest to write Of affairs he knew nothing about.
Next morning, in spite of misgivings and fright, Dick went to his father and said, "I'd like, if I may, to go with you today ..." And John Foote nearly fell out of bed.
He beamed at the boy in a transport of joy. "Come, lad, that's more like it!" he roared. But when Dick, with some pain, felt obliged to explain, His attempts were completely ignored.
"It's nothing to me what your reasons may be," Said his father. "Why, once you're afloat, You'll find it so grand that you'll swear off the land And want to go live on the boat!"
The day was a prize — not a cloud in the skies — As the two started out with the tide. A breeze, rather brisk, set the canvas, and whisk! They were off on a breathtaking ride.
Dick's father was very lighthearted and merry And bellowed out songs from the stern While amidships Dick sprawled, very pale and appalled, But determined to watch and to learn.
They came to a spot where the cod could be caught, And John, having shouted "Avast!" Furled the sail in a flash, dropped the anchors, kersplash, And shipped both the boom and the mast.
The boat leaped and plunged while the sea sank and lunged And Dick wondered how in tarnation His father was able to keep himself stable On such an unruly foundation.
The lad sat and gazed at his father, amazed. How skillful he was! And what's more, How at home in his boat, how good-natured afloat Who was so discontented ashore!
Then they fished and they fished, and though Dick may have wished He were home sitting under a tree, Still he watched and took notes on "Behavior of Boats" And on "Manners and Moods of the Sea."
The boat was asquish with a tumult of fish But John Foote's steady work never ceased. The cod couldn't wait to take hold of the bait — Why, he took in two hundred at least!
Then, just as the day was beginning to gray And the fishing was finished at last, And they'd coiled up the trawl and were starting to haul Up the anchors and set up the mast,
And just as it seemed that Dick's life was redeemed, And just as he turned to remark, "Well, Father, I'm glad for the day that we've had," Yes, then — then they saw her — a shark!
John Foote smote his brow. "Well, we're in for it now. She's smelled out our cod, sure enough." And he tried to sound bold, but his blood had run cold And his voice was more squeaky than gruff.
The shark, with her fin and her villainous grin, Came smoothly and steadily on, And circled the dory, parading her glory, Displaying her brine-lacquered brawn.
Now, this was the danger, in case you're a stranger To sharks: they are selfish and rude. It's on fish that they dote, and they'll capsize your boat For your catch, if they feel in the mood.
John Foote was undone, but his innocent son, Who was seemingly blind to the threat, Was quite thoroughly charmed, one might say, and disarmed By this cumbrous but graceful coquette.
Then, just as her nose nudged the dory, Dick rose, His soul overcome with emotion. Right there in the boat he cried out, and I quote, "Oh, Glorious Queen of the Ocean!"
John Foote was struck dumb. Surely Doomsday had come And his son had gone loony. What next? The shark, on her part, gave a kind of a start And retreated, a little perplexed.
But Dick had been fired by the muse and, inspired, He stood in that boat, on that sea; He stood like a god, ankle-deep in dead cod, And the verse rolled out wild, sweet, and free:
"Oh, divine matriarch Who comes wreathing my barque, Oh, queen of the deep Where my forefathers sleep, Oh, mysterious shark From the watery dark, What strange secrets you keep Where strange sea creatures creep!
"Hoary Neptune's dark friend, Draw you near and attend: May you ever be free In your turbulent sea; May you wander unpenned Till the great oceans end And a talisman be To pale mortals like me!"
The shark dropped her jaw, quite confounded with awe, The picture of numb stupefaction. And John, though agape, saw their chance to escape, So he sprang to immediate action.
The dory took flight like a gull in a fright The instant the sail was unfurled, And they left that poor shark in the gathering dark Still wondering What in the World.
Thus grief was averted: One Shark Disconcerted, One Boat Headed Homeward Once More; And, finally, land — and the sweet scrape of sand As the surf tossed the dory ashore.
Now, all of that time, since Dick's outburst of rhyme, Not a word had been spoken, not one. But while beaching the boat, old John Foote cleared his throat And said to his wonderful son:
"Say, Dick, do you think you could take pen and ink And write down those handy remarks? They saved us out there and I'll use them for fair The next time I'm troubled by sharks."
Well, Dick said he would, and his father said, "Good!" And they went home to supper and bed. And that was the way that they ended their day. Nothing more on the matter was said.
Dick kept writing rhyme, but his best for all time Was the one for New Bedford which ends: "I have nothing but praise for the fisherman's ways. May we honor him always, my friends!"
And they say in the town that John Foote kept his frown And complained about Dick just the same. But a glimmer of pride that he couldn't quite hide Shone out when he spoke his son's name.
Excerpted from "Dick Foote and the Shark"
Copyright © 1967 Natalie Babbitt.
Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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