New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016
If Some Writer! isn’t my favorite book of this school year, it is certainly my favorite children’s biography! The challenge here will be limiting the gushing. (But really, so good!) For many, experience with White’s work is limited to his writing for kids, and maybe for his work on The Elements of Style. While Some Writer! does give a lot of attention to his work in children’s literature, it also dives into his work on books for adults, on poetry, and his life-long career with The New Yorker.
From the very first page, this book is infused with the the warm atmosphere of a happy family. There were surely family squabbles and crises, but White’s parents were loving and managed, it seems, to raise seven healthy and productive citizens. The family challenges are presented as the regular type, free of real tragedy and drama. Even the photograph introducing the White family shows a casual family, a departure from the stiff, unsmiling family portraits of the time. The photos, narrative, quotes from White himself, and fun illustrations by the author reveal a happy, if very shy, boy, full of adventure and humor.
Chapters covering White’s adult years are organized by his writing projects, so readers get a sense of the context in which his most famous works are written, and the inspiration behind each story. We learn about his wife and children, his fondness for the outdoors and animals, and his philosophy on writing. There is a lot of advice for young writers woven in, for those who are interested.
Sweet’s trademark watercolor and collage illustrations are rich and full of interesting details about White’s life. With White’s hand-written manuscripts and workpapers, his drawings, vintage office suppplies and typewriter keys, along with her own illustrrations, Sweet seems to capture the spirit of White’s work. She even makes the chapter on The Elements of Style enjoyable!
Some Writer! has everything a great information text needs: interesting content organized in an engaging format; primary source documents; a timeline; an index; endnotes; and a selected bibliography of White’s work and the work of others. There is even an afterward by White’s granddaughter.
Put Some Writer! at the top of your nonfiction wish list! It is a must for every school library biography section, and it is one of those books that will be injoyed by readers of every age.
Dewey: 818 or 921 Interest Level: Grades 3-6 and beyond
Reviews and Awards: Booklist starred; Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books starred; Hornbook Magazine starred; Kirkus Reviews starred; New York Times; Publishers Weekly starred; School Library Connection starred; School Library Journal starred; Booklist Editors’ Choice: Books for Middle Readers 2016; Notable Children’s Books, 2017 for All Ages; Orbis Pictus Award Winner, 2017.
Middle School readers might like: E.B. White by Deb Aronson
Young Adult readers might like: Essays of E.B. White by E.B. White
Fiction Pairings: Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, and The Trumpet of the Swan, all by E.B. White.
Audio: “How E.B. White Spun ‘Charlotte’s Web’: a review by Maureen Corrigan on NPR’s Fresh Air at http://www.npr.org/2011/07/05/137452030/how-e-b-white-spun-charlottes-web. Aired on July 5, 2011.
On the Web:
Robert Angell, “Andy: for E.B. White’s readers and family, a sense of trust came easily.” New Yorker, February 14, 2005 at http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2005/02/14/andy.
For more of E.B. White’s work at The New Yorker, visit www.newyorker.com and search for E.B. White. There are many articles written throughout his career at The New Yorker.