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Review of A Boy, a Mouse, and a Spider: The Story of E. B. White

A Boy, a Mouse, and a Spider: The Story of E. B. White
by Barbara Herkert; illus. by Lauren Castillo
Primary    Ottaviano/Holt    40 pp.
10/17    978-1-62779-245-5    $18.99

The writer E. B. White is introduced here in spare text and warm images, with a focus on White’s love of nature and animals as well as the creation of his first two children’s books. With just a few sentences on each page, Herkert effectively evokes White’s own prose, filled with sensory detail and phrases that roll off the tongue: “His ears captured an owl’s query, the breeze’s beckoning, the scuffing of horse hooves.” Castillo’s illustrations mirror the text with natural colors (warm browns predominate) and lively drawings of the young boy growing into the adult writer. One of the most striking illustrations is of the author and his family in a car heading for their new saltwater farm in Maine — it looks to be springtime with bare trees and green fields, alive with possibility. The book starts with White’s childhood, then moves to vignettes of his youth and adulthood, providing brief descriptions of the inspiration for and creation of Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web, and ends with a double-page spread celebrating White’s life and words: “He basked in the seasons, the peace of the barn, the beauty of the world. His stories capture the glory of nature and the comfort of hope.” An author’s note gives a little more context, but for a detailed examination of White’s life, readers will need to go elsewhere (viz. Melissa Sweet’s Some Writer!, rev. 9/16). A gentle reverie on a beloved writer, ideally suited for children first encountering his children’s books as read-alouds. A brief bibliography is appended.

From the November/December 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

About Monica Edinger

Monica Edinger, a fourth-grade teacher at the Dalton School in New York City, blogs at Educating Alice and the Huffington Post. She is the author of Africa Is My Home: A Child of the Amistad (Candlewick), illustrated by Robert Byrd.

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