Nancy Tafuri has been illustrating books for children since the late 1970s. Whether providing pictures for other authors, such as Charlotte Pomerantz and Mirra Ginsburg, or creating her own works, she is praised by critics for her simple yet imaginative art. If I Had a Paka: Poems in Eleven Languages, which Tafuri illustrated for Pomerantz, was selected as a Jane Addams honor book; Tafuri's own Have You Seen My Duckling? was a Caldecott Honor Book.
Tafuri was born on November 14, 1946, in Brooklyn, New York. For the first ten years of her life she was an only child and says that this helped her learn to entertain herself with stories and art.
Tafuri entered the School of Visual Arts in New York City in 1964. Her first job was as an assistant art director for the publishing firm Simon & Schuster. She left two years later and married Thomas Tafuri, a fellow student at the School of Visual Arts.