(1936-2017) US writer. Most of her fiction and poetry is for children, but she has written two fantasy novels for adults. In the vividly sentimental Things Invisible to See (1984) a young soldier serving in World War II makes a bargain with Death which ties his fate to a Baseball game in which his team must play Death's team of all-time greats. In Sister Water (1993) a man hired to look after the ailing mother of a young widow obtains modest (but charmingly inept) supernatural assistance when falsely accused of homicide.
NW's essays on writing, collected in Telling Time: Angels, Ancestors and Stories (coll 1993), insist on the necessity of writing from experience while accepting that the supernatural plays a vital role in that aspect of experience which consists of private fantasies and shared stories; essays partly on fantasy include "Danny Weinstein's Magic Book", which uses parables to justify the writing of parables, and "How Poetry Came into the World and Why God Doesn't Write It", which is part-Allegory and part-anthology. Some of the short stories in Lively Anatomy of God (coll 1968 chap), Childhood of the Magician (coll 1973 chap) and Angel in the Parlor: Five Stories and Eight Essays (coll 1982) have slight fantasy elements, but fantasy plays a more prominent role in NW's children's stories, which include the Anatole series – Sailing to Cythera and Other Anatole Stories (coll 1985 chap), The Island of the Grass King: The Further Adventures of Anatole (coll 1985 chap) and Uncle Terrible: More Adventures of Anatole (coll 1985) – and the novel Firebrat (1988). Agents of good, including Angels and ancestral Spirits are very much more in evidence in NW's work than agents of evil, often serving in a relatively humble capacity; in The High Rise Glorious Skittle Skat Roarious Sky Pie Angel Food Cake (1990 chap) angels help bake a cake. A Visit to William Blake's Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers (coll 1981) was a Newbery Medal winner. [BS]
other works: The Well-Mannered Balloon (1976 chap); Simple Pictures are Best (1977 chap); Stranger's Bread (1977 chap); Highest Hit (1978); Papa's Panda (1979); The Marzipan Moon (1981 chap); The Nightgown of the Sullen Moon (1983 chap); Night Story (1986 chap); The Mountains of Quilt (1987 chap); East of the Sun and West of the Moon: A Play (1989 chap); A Nancy Willard Reader: Selected Poetry and Prose (coll 1991); Beauty and the Beast (1992 chap); The Sorcerer's Apprentice (1993 chap); Starlit Somersault Downhill (1993); Among Angels (1994) with Jane Yolen.
Poetry: Water Walker (coll 1989); Pish, Posh, Said Hieronymus Bosch (coll 1991 chap).
Nancy Margaret Willard