Cindy: We usually refrain from teasing our readers with a book that is half a year from publication, but Some Writer! The Story of E. B. White (Oct. 2016) is worth raving about early and often. Melissa Sweet, who recently illustrated the award-winning The Right Word, is the perfect person to tell the story of an author noted for his economical and precise use of language.
Sweet approaches White’s life chronologically, drawing in young readers with early stories of the city boy and his family on vacation in Maine: boating, observing nature, and drinking Moxie soda. E. B. stands for Elwyn Brooks, but his friends and family called him Andy. He formed the habit of writing in a journal during these years and won his first literary contest when he was nine years old. He quickly followed that success with publication in St. Nicholas magazine.
The pages turn easily, illustrated with Sweet’s folksy collages of journal entries, photographs, draft pages with scribbled-out writing, watercolors, book covers, sample illustrations, and even barn wood. Meanwhile, Andy’s life unfolds as he attends college at Cornell, takes a job with The New Yorker, writes Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web, and revises the revered Elements of Style, written by one of his Cornell English teachers, William Strunk.
Sweet captures White’s essence here with just the
right words and images. This truly is “some book.”
Readers will glean interesting facts—for example, the boathouse where he wrote was built to the same size and dimensions as Henry David Thoreau’s cabin and outfitted just as sparsely. I’ve always liked a photo of White at the boathouse desk that I saw in Jill Krementz’s book A Writer’s Desk, but it now has stiff competition from another Krementz photo included here, this one showing Andy riding a rope swing in his barn. He lived a life of quiet, simple pleasures and pursuits. Sweet captures White’s essence here with just the right words and images. This truly is “some book.”
Lynn: As I write this I’m wishing I had Charlotte’s ability to sum up something amazing in a perfectly chosen word. Perhaps I should just type terrific, radiant, or humble and be done!
Like Cindy, I loved this book. It is beautiful, brilliant, and masterfully executed. Each page is a new discovery, every piece fits perfectly, and the emerging sense of this charming, self-effacing, and exquisitely thoughtful author took up residence in my mind. By the end, I felt as if I had grown up with Andy White, visited his Maine farm, and counted him as a friend.
I should mention the interesting back matter that includes an author’s note, the fascinating “About the Art” pages, a bibliography, notes and an afterword by Martha White, E. B. White’s granddaughter. Some book indeed!