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…
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.
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.”