Katharine Holabird’s first children’s book, Angelina Ballerina, was published in 1983. The famous dancing mouseling will celebrate her 25th anniversary in 2008, and some special events are being planned…

Katharine Holabird grew up in an artistic household in Chicago, the second of four daughters. As a child, she lived in an imaginary world of fairy tales, princesses, and ballerinas, and loved to perform and dance with her sisters.


Annual invitations to attend the ballet with her grandmother made a deep impression.

“As a young child I was thrilled by Cinderella, Swan Lake, and The Nutcracker," Katharine remembers. Katharine was an avid reader who loved fantasy and tales of heroic animals. "I also loved the secret world of books," says Katharine, "and was delighted to discover I could create characters of my own."

After graduating from the Francis Parker School in Chicago, Katharine attended Bennington College in Vermont. She received a B.A. in Literature from Bennington in 1969, and then worked as a literary editor at the college for a year. The following year she went to Italy, where she became a free-lance journalist. In 1974, Katharine married and moved with her husband, Michael Haggiag, to London, England. In London, Katharine continued to write and also worked as a nursery school teacher until the birth of her first daughter, Tara, in 1976. Another daughter, Alexandra, was born in 1979, and a son, Adam, was born in 1983.

Katharine was already the mother of young children when she created Angelina Ballerina in 1983. “Tara and Alexandra loved to dress up and dance around the house together, just as I loved dancing with my sisters when we were children. My daughters were passionate about pink tutus and ballet lessons, and I was struck by all the daily drama of their lives, both in and out of ballet class. The courage and determination it takes to be a small performer impressed me, as did all the emotional upheavals that take place behind the scenes. Although he was a boy, my son Adam loved to copy his sisters in a comical way, and was brilliant at play-acting. Adam was the inspiration for Angelina’s adorable little cousin, Henry.”

Katharine wrote the first draft of ‘Angelina Ballerina’ at the kitchen table with her daughters twirling around her. “I thought about all the young children who are thrilled by performing and dancing, just like my daughters, and sat down to write about a small star with enormous dreams. Before long, the impulsive and highly emotional character of Angelina leapt onto the page.”

Along with her passion for the limelight, Angelina's feisty character is familiar to many children, Katharine believes, “Angelina is highly sensitive like many young children. She easily loses her temper and bursts into tears, and then she struggles to get over it and apologize.”

“Nobody is perfect,” Katharine continues, “Children are familiar with Angelina’s outbursts and emotional upheavals because they experience exactly the same feelings themselves. But no matter how hard Angelina may struggle with her conscience, they know she’ll always try to do the right thing in the end.”

 

Portrait of Katharine Holabird by John Carey