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Nancy Tafuri: Sharing Nature with Young Ones

Nancy Tafuri

When Nancy Tafuri began her illustrating her own marvelous stories, she had a hard time at first finding a publisher who would believe in her work. Fortunately for the many, many children who have been delighted by her books, Nancy persisted, learning more about her craft while waiting to be published. Her books were successful, and they definitely found their young audiences. Eventually, the New York Times would call Nancy Tafuri “the Queen Mother of Warmly Soothing Animal Bedtime Stories.”

Imaginative Beginnings

When she was quite young and still an only child, Nancy’s father was often overseas in the Navy. Nancy and her mother were by themselves and became very close, living in an apartment in Brooklyn. She remembers using her imagination with her small friend Joseph to make the stairs and basement of the building into a wonderful world of their own. But city life wasn’t forever. After her father’s retirement, the family moved away from New York City to a small town in the New Jersey countryside.

Nancy loved art and studied it as much as she could in high school, even receiving permission to draw a mural instead of making a dress in home economics. After graduation and with her mother’s encouragement, she brought her 40-pound portfolio of artwork to the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan to see if they would let her study there. She was accepted and went on to major in children’s book illustration, a subject that made her very happy.

Working Together

At art school, she met fellow student (and future husband) Tom Tafuri. They married, a few years after college, in 1969 and often worked together on her freelance assignments from publishing houses. Nancy went from freelancing to full-time work at Simon & Schuster, and Tom was also successful as a graphic designer. Eventually, Tom and Nancy started their own business, One Plus One Studio, just outside of Manhattan. Later on, they would bring the business back to Manhattan in a series of brownstone apartments they renovated themselves.

It wasn’t until 1980 that Nancy’s career illustrating children’s books really took off when she was given the assignment to do the drawings for The Piney Woods Peddler, an American folktale retold by George Shannon. Wearing a straw hat, Nancy’s husband Tom was her model for the peddler. About three books later in 1983, Nancy began writing and illustrating her own books for children, beginning with All Year Long. It was about this time that Nancy and Tom found their dilapidated dream house in Connecticut and started putting it to rights. In 1989, their hopes for a child were realized when daughter Cristina was born.

Now with a pond, woods, and meadows nearby, Nancy loved showing her daughter nature, both face to face and with illustrations of what they saw outside to enjoy later inside. Some of those drawings inspired beloved books. During her childhood, Cristina often served as her mother’s model.

You can read more about Nancy’s, Tom’s, and Cristina’s very happy years in her autobiographical essay in Contemporary Authors, part of our Literature Resource Database. One thing is for sure. Nancy’s work makes her happy:

“And when I go to a reading and I finish a story and I hear, ‘Read it again’—I just smile. Maybe in some way I’ve helped create another reader.” (Nancy in her Contemporary Authors autobiographical essay)1

You can check out many of Nancy’s books from your local library. Here are the ones owned by Central Rappahannock Regional Library.

Doing a report? You might like these fast facts on Nancy Tafuri’s life and career:
Born: November 14, 1946, in Brooklyn, NY
Family: father, Otto George; mother, Helen Haase; husband, Thomas Michael Tafuri; child, Cristina
Education: School of Visual Arts (NYC), graduated in 1967
Selected Awards: The Piney Woods Peddler, Children's Choice citation; Have You Seen My Duckling, Caldecott Honor Book; Snowy, Flowy, Blowy: A Twelve Months Rhyme, Recommended Picture Book Honor (Parents' Choice); Silly Little Goose, Reading Magic Award (Parenting magazine).
Home office: Roxbury, CT
Email: tafuri@nancytafuri.net or on her contact page, http://www.nancytafuri.com/contact/

Read More about Nancy and Her Books Online:

A Curious Thing: Interview with Nancy Tafuri
http://childliterature.blogspot.com/2012/02/interview-with-nancy-tafuri-and.html
Nancy tells the interviewer what she does in her free time, which artistic materials she prefers to use, the books she loved as a child, what her workspace looks like, and more.

Nancy Tafuri’s Page
http://www.nancytafuri.com/
Has a bit of a biography, an appearances listing, information on her books and their publishing house, Duck Pond Press. Also has a contact form.

Simon & Schuster: Nancy Tafuri Revealed
http://www.simonandschuster.co.in/authors/Nancy-Tafuri/23141091/revealed
Learn more about Nancy—her favorite composer, movie, and TV show; the name of her high school; her biggest fear; most admired person; and much more.

From Our Databases:

Literature Resource Center:

1“Nancy Tafuri.” (2016). Autobiographical essay in Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale. Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com.proxy.librarypoint.org/ps/i.do?p=LitRC&sw=w&u=crrl&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CH1090097116&asid=7957510bcffcd1c84e4b1d8db71e13e5

“Nancy Tafuri.” (2008). Essay in Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale. Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com.proxy.librarypoint.org/ps/i.do?p=LitRC&sw=w&u=crrl&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CH1000097116&asid=a27211e11b6c5cdbcabbd7a8ced963fd