by Melissa Sweet
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars
One of the bookish gifts I remember getting and keeping for a very long time was a boxed set of E. B. White books: The Trumpet of the Swan, Charlotte’s Web, and Stuart Little. I loved them all, so I was eager to see this attractive biography of a classic children’s author. I learned a lot about White, including his full name and nicknames, and that he wrote for the New Yorker for almost his entire life.
Having just weeded our children’s biographies, I can say that I’m glad the trend is toward attractive books with, you know, pictures (in color!) and stuff. And probably kids will love the distracted nature of this one, with chaotic colors and borders everywhere, letter excerpts recreated in old-style typewriter font, photos, maps, tidbits of info randomly scattered throughout. For me, I could never quite tell when chapters began and ended, and where quotes and chapter titles came from, which made it hard to follow. Most egregiously, White’s date of death is never stated (except in the timeline at the back of the book), and the last chapter just sort of peters out – an unfitting ending for someone whose best-known work is famous for the definitive death of its titular character.
I did love seeing some of the original versions of his work, like the three false starts to Charlotte’s Web, and how some of the drawings emerged. I’ll have to ask around to some kids for their opinion, especially on the cluttered visual presentation.