For adults passionate about children’s books, these new biographical works will, through very different approaches, foster appreciation of two prominent figures in children’s literature.
After rereading the Little House books she loved as a kid, Wendy McClure renews her obsession with all things Laura Ingalls Wilder and chronicles it in The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie. Memories of her Wilder-fixated youth (“I wanted to do chores because of those books”), her sometimes-bizarre research findings (a Little House–themed Japanese anime series), and her experiments with churning butter and twisting hay as she searches for the elusive “Laura World” are quirky and laugh-out-loud funny. Luckily for readers, she proudly lets her “calico-sunbonnet freak flag fly” — and takes us along for the ride.
E. B. White’s life has certainly been examined, but Michael Sims gives us another, very worthy look in his tightly focused biography, The Story of Charlotte’s Web: E. B. White’s Eccentric Life and the Birth of an American Classic. The focus on White as the author of Charlotte’s Web gives the book shape and flow, but is not limiting. Sims traces direct influences—love of animals and the natural world, deep-seated nostalgia, etc. — but he also tells a remarkably full story of the author’s life. In clear, graceful prose Sims entirely captures the essence of his subject: “…by the last page it had preserved in amber his response to the world.”
From Notes from the Horn Book, August 2011