It had been nearly five years since my last lunch with Lee Kingman Natti, but it felt like just last month. Her home in Gloucester is an oasis reflecting Lee’s lifelong involvement with artists and writers, as well as her own art. We sat looking out at the granite quarry that holds their water supply — and that Bertha Mahony Miller‘s father used to manage — and I heard about recent visitors. Not only have they had to deal with beaver and escaped piranha, but just last week Larry David was there scouting a movie location.
The Horn Book has been part of Lee’s life for more than 80 years. In 1929, when she was nine years old, she won a contest and had several book reviews published in the Magazine. An early patron of the Bookshop for Boys and Girls, Lee recalled those days in our 75th anniversary issue. After working at Houghton Mifflin in the 1940s, she served on the Horn Book Council editing several of our books and writing The Illustrator’s Notebook. Somewhere in there she also wrote more than thirty picture books and middle-grade and YA novels. Her daughter is the illustrator Susanna Natti and her granddaughter Kate was a Horn Book intern a few years back.
During her time at Houghton, Lee Kingman was Virginia Lee Burton’s editor and joined the Folly Cove designers creating linoleum blocks printed on fabric. It was through Burton and her husband George Demetrios that Lee met Robert Natti, her future husband — hence the move to Gloucester where she became Burton’s neighbor. Since my last visit, Lee has been creating bas relief fabric constructions of nature scenes that remind me of Salley Mavor‘s work. We should all be so industrious!
It was a beautiful day for a drive and I want to thank Roger for letting me slip out of the office. This is one of those in-between weeks for me — the craziness of the September Magazine is over and I’m waiting for the fall Guide to hit my desk. There are some November Magazine details that need my attention, but it seems wrong to design a snowy magazine cover on such a warm summer day!