Sunday, March 05, 2017

Some Writer! The Story of E. B. White by Melissa Sweet

To most readers, White is best remembered as a beloved children's author and millions have read Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little, and The Trumpet of the Swan. In grade school, a teacher read Charlotte's Web to our class and I never liked it. In fact, I thought it was a "girl book" and felt the same way after seeing the movie so I never read the other two. Shame on me.

My appreciation of his work came by way of James Thurber and The New Yorker. I know him from casuals in the mag, his fantastic though nameless contributions to Talk of the Town pieces. I even refer to him as "Andy", as Thurber and most of magazine's crew did (I know. I'm kind of a dork that way). 

As well, I know him from the classic reference, The Elements of Style, which I still turn to on occasion mostly to be reminded how mistaken I am and how I should have paid closer attention in school. Regular Reed-ers likely think I should commit the small volume to memory and THEN sit down at the keyboard. A fine suggestion, no doubt.  

When I received this beautiful biography, I was delighted but reading it was an absolute treat. Author Melissa Sweet is a Caldecott honor winner and knows her way around kids books but this goes a step further. The mixed-media artwork is not only stunning but the remarkable visuals add to the the storytelling like few books I've read (Think Griffin and Sabine without all those tedious envelopes and mushy stuff). Sweet makes White's life come to life before your eyes. 

As well as striking pages like this, there are original sketches by White, family photos, and handwritten drafts of some of his most famous works. 

Best of all, it was obvious to me how much Sweet admires her subject as a person and a writer. You come away from the book wishing Andy was your friend and that is no small task for a writer to pull off. White had a way of making his subjects so approachable and there was an ease to his style that must have made other writers jealous. Sweet manages to attain a similar feeling. The book informs, entertains, and enchants the eye. If you are a fan of White's work, of great children's books, or expert visual storytelling, you can't miss with this.