Sunday, December 11, 2016

Some Writer! The Story of E. B. White

Sweet, Melissa. Some Writer! The Story of E. B. White. Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt, 2016.
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My Thoughts
I remember when Mrs. Edwards, my first grade teacher, read Charlotte's Web to my class. I've loved that book ever since! When I saw there was a new biography about the author, I thought it's exactly what my library needed (ok, I really wanted it, too!). I was not disappointed in reading this book. I was able to reminisce, and I loved learning how, in a way, Charlotte's Web was autobiographical in itself.

I was also reminded that White wrote Stuart Little and The Trumpet of the Swan. I don't remember ever reading the swan book, so I may have to do some borrowing from my elementary librarian friends.

One thing I didn't realize is that White didn't just write children's books. At a young age, he submitted his stories to magazines, even winning "the coveted gold medal" (Sweet 22). In high school and college, he wrote for each school's newspapers. He submitted works to other publications early in his professional career and was hired to write for The New Yorker. He was a contemporary and friend of James Thurber.

A second thing I didn't realize (and I'm embarrassed to admit this), is that White is THE White in Strunk and White's Elements of Style book. How did I not know this? White studied under Professor Strunk and was later asked to help with the publishing of a revised edition of Strunk's famous work. I got ticked at the note that White sent to the editor where he wanted to write in the next grammar book a sentence that ends with five prepositions (Sweet 108). It's the English teacher in me that loved reading Chapter 10- "the Elements of Style" that give top tips for writing. It made me think about Steven King's book that I read earlier this year. Both White and King try to "avoid the use of qualifiers" (Sweet 106).

Visually, the book was incredible. There were pictures of White, his family, copies of manuscripts, and things in his own handwriting. The mixed-media collage effect gave the book a child-like quality. At the end of the book, there is a note from the author to describe both her writing and artistic process. There's also a note from White's granddaughter, giving the family's blessing of this work.
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Just look at this example of the artwork. Incredible detail! 

The evening I finished this book, I happened to shop at a used book store. You guessed it. I did look for copies of White's books. I didn't find any, which is probably best for my wallet. 

I'm hopeful that my high school kids will read and enjoy this biography of a beloved children's book author. 

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