Thursday, December 22, 2016

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

First, I have to confess that I was absolutely sure this was a picture book. In fact, I told the cataloger to put it in picture books and wondered why she was so confused!

It is not a picture book. It is a heavily illustrated, beautifully crafted, meticulously researched, 160 page biography of the beloved children's author.

Beginning with E. B. White's childhood, Sweet takes readers through the different phases of White's life and writing career, from his work at the New Yorker to his reclusive life on a family farm and the writing of each of his three famous children's books. Sweet alternates between brief, succinct paragraphs describing the events and thoughts and quotes from White's letters and writing. She references the writers and children he influenced, the responses of adults and children to his books, and the legacy he left.

Sweet's collage illustrations are completely integrated into the text and layout of the book. One spread has a full-page illustration of a young boy on a swing paired with a passage from White's collection One Man's Meat, reflecting on his years in Maine. Another spread has richly layered illustrations of eggs, chalkboard, swans, and an excerpt from The Trumpet of the Swan. Even pages that are primarily text have photographs, small inset illustrations, and other things to catch the eye and enrich the story.

All quotations are clearly attributed within the text. There is also a two-page author's note about the inspiration and art process for the book, an afterword by White's granddaughter Martha White, a publishing timeline, notes, bibliography, and index.

Verdict: This is a beautiful book, much like the spare but lovely prose of E. B. White himself. It may not fly off the shelf but it will be appreciated by children who love beautiful language and want to experience the reflective life of E. B. White. I won't say it's a necessity for every library, but if you can purchase it, I recommend it.

ISBN: 9780544319592; Published 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Purchased for the library

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