The Books of Suzanne Tate
Saying that Suzanne Tate is a prolific author would be an understatement. Since her first Nature Series book, Crabby and Nabby was written in 1988, working with illustrator James Melvin, 39 books in the series have been written, as well as five books in her History Series.
And that’s just the children’s books. Suzanne has also published four oral histories of the Outer Banks and through Arcadia Publishing wrote Duck, which is a history of the village of Duck from the 1950s through the 1980s.
Some of her books are no longer in print and there are so many—especially in the Nature Series—that reviewing each one is not possible.
These are the books that Suzanne Tate and James Melvin are so well known for—and for good reason.
Suzanne has mentioned a number of times that she and James thought Crabby and Nabby, A Tale of Two Crabs would be a one-time event and were shocked when it suddenly started flying off the shelves.
What Crabby and Nabby offered, and it’s a rare thing in children’s books, is real science and an entertaining story. Coupled with Melvin’s illustrations—which are outstanding, a winning combination was established.
Billie Bluefish was the second book in the series, and it too sold extremely well.
With so many titles, it’s difficult to pick a favorite, but Crabby and Nabby is a fun book to read about the life cycle of blue crabs. Suzanne chose the topic because at the time she was helping her husband who was crabbing in the Outer Banks sounds.
Mary Manatee-A Tale of Sea Cows has stood the test of time remarkably well. A personal favorite is Teena Tortoise-A Tale of a Little Giant that was written after a visit to the Galapagos.
Suzanne, the most recent addition to the Nature Series will be about monarch butterflies. According to her, there is one group of the butterflies that migrate from the Outer Banks to Mexico and back to the Outer Banks every year.
Like all of her other books, the book will be scientifically accurate and the illustrations beautifully rendered.
Suzanne has written five books in her History Series, but only three are still in print: Helping the Wright Brothers-A Tale of First Flight Helpers, Flyer-A Tale of the Wright Dog, and Soft Step & Bright Eyes-A Tale of Native American Life. Holly from Hatteras and Burnside and Sideburns: A Tale of Civil War Days are out of print although there may still be some places selling them.
Although the books are written for children, there is little attempt to sugarcoat facts or to rewrite history. The out of print book, Soft Step tells the tale of the first contact between the Native Americans living on the Outer Banks and the English explorers. Burnside, the other out of print book recounts the time during the Civil War when Union forces controlled Roanoke Island. The story leaves little doubt that most local residents viewed the Union soldiers as an occupying army.
Helping the Wright Brothers tells the tale of Bill Tate, who wrote the letter from Kitty Hawk that enticed the Wright Brother to come to the Outer Banks. Suzanne’s first husband, Everett was a direct descendant of Bill Tate and there are some nice biographical touches in the story.
Flyer tells a wonderful tale of a dog and the time Wilbur Wright first went to France.
Suzanne Tate has a degree in anthropology, and she has never lost her fascination with history. Her oral histories have given her the opportunity to delve into the life and times of societies that are often overlooked on the Outer Banks.
There are three of the books still in print. A fourth, Whalehead from the recollections of retired Corolla Postmaster Norris Austen is no longer available.
Bring Me Duck-Folk Tales and Anecdotes from Duck, NC, are the memories of Suzanne’s mother-in-law, Ruth Tate. What emerges from the pages is an idyllic time. There was poverty—the people in the village had very little money—but there was also a very real sense of community.
Memories of Manteo and Roanoke Island, as told by Cora Mae Basnight creates an image of Manteo that was the cultural hub of a far-flung and diverse county. The book makes extensive use of photographs.
Logs & Moonshine-Tales of Buffalo City is the most ambitious book in the series. Located in what is now Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, there is almost nothing left to suggest there was once a thriving logging town with a population well over 1000 at one time. When the logging gave out, Prohibition began, and Buffalo City, with limited access from the outside world, was the perfect location to make moonshine, which the residents did and did quite well according to legend.
Published in 2015 by Arcadia Publishing, Duck is a part pictorial history with lots of interesting history about this well-known beach town.
When Suzanne first came to the Outer Banks in the 1950s with her late husband Everett, she fell in love with the village of Duck, where her husband’s family lived.
The book is a photographic trip through the 20th-century history of Duck. Many of the images were taken by Suzanne and on all of the pictures, she tells the story behind what is seen.
A fascinating glimpse into the real history of the village and a great introduction to what life was like on the Outer Banks 60 or 50 years ago.