Louise Fitzhugh was born in Memphis
on October 5, 1928. Her parents were divorced soon after she was born. Her father, attorney
Millsaps Fitzhugh was awarded sole custody on the grounds that her mother, Louise Perkins, was unfit. Louise grew up not knowing her mother.
Fitzhugh attended an exclusive girls' school, Miss Hutchison's, and attended three different colleges but never obtained a degree. She traveled in Europe before finally settling down in New York City to pursue a career as a painter. In the late 1950s she and a friend, Sandra Scoppetone, began work on a beatnik parody of Kay Thompson's Eloise. It was published in 1961 as Suzuki Beane. In 1964 Harper Press published her first novel, Harriet the Spy. Two novels about Harriet's friends followed: The Long Secret in 1965 and Sport, published posthumously in 1979. At around the time she wrote Harriet the Spy, Fitzhugh also wrote a novel about two adolescent girls who fall in love, called Amelia. Unfortunately her agent refused to take it on and the manuscript has since been lost.
Much of Fitzhugh's work has a strong social conscience: Bang Bang You're Dead was a 1969 picture book with a strong anti-war message and Nobody's Family Is Going to Change (1975) explored both women's rights and children's rights. It became the basis of the Broadway musical The Tap Dance Kid. Ironically, the book's minor male characters took the lead roles, completely overshadowing Emma, the female protagonist. This happened after Fitzhugh's untimely death from an aneurysm in 1974 at the age of 46. After her death, three picture books were published: I Am Three, I Am Four, and I Am Five.
Awards: New York Times Outstanding Books of the Year citation, 1964, American Library Association Notable Book citation, and Sequoyah Award, 1967, both for Harriet the Spy; New York Times Choice of Best Illustrated Books of the Year citation, 1969, and Brooklyn Art Books for Children citation, both for Bang, Bang, You're Dead; award, Children's Book Bulletin, 1976, for Nobody's Family Is Going to Change; Children's Rights Workshop Other award, 1976; Emmy award for children's entertainment special, 1979, for The Tap Dance Kid (based on Nobody's Family Is Going to Change).
Harriet the Spy, Harper, 1964.
The Long Secret, Harper, 1965.
(With Sandra Scoppettone) Bang, Bang, You're Dead (picture book), Harper, 1969.
Nobody's Family Is Going to Change, Farrar, Straus, 1974.
I Am Five (picture book), Delacorte, 1978.
Sport, Delacorte, 1979.
I Am Three (picture book), illustrations by Susanna Natti, Delacorte, 1982.
I Am Four (picture book), illustrations by Susan Bonners, Delacorte, 1982.
I Know Everything about John and He Knows Everything about Me, illustrated by Lillian Hoban, Doubleday, 1993.
OTHER: Also author and illustrator of picture book My Friend John; illustrator of book for children by Scoppettone, Suzuki Beane, Doubleday, 1961. Author of text for I Am Six. Also author of plays and adult novels.
Media Adaptations: Nobody's Family Is Going to Change was adapted for television as The Tap Dance Kid and broadcast on NBC-TV's "Special Treat" series, 1978; also produced as a play on Broadway at Broadhurst Theatre, December 21, 1983. Book of The Tap Dance Kid by Charles Blackwell, music by Henry Krieger, lyrics by Robert Lorick, S. French (New York City), 1988. Harriet the Spy was adapted as a film that was released in 1996.