Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Story of Charlotte's Web

I remember years ago when my friend Cheryl shared a photograph of E.B. White with me from her classroom calendar.  Famous writers writing in their favorite "writing spots" filled each month's pages, black and white photographs coupled with a quote by the featured author.  E.B. White sitting alone at a typewriter at a plain oak table in his barn was one of the images.  It was poignant.
      I've always loved E.B. White's writing.  It's charming.  It's simple.  It's often poignant.  And, sometimes strange subject matter aside, his writing is just brilliant.  And, like most of you, I think Charlotte's Web is his most endearing piece of work.  His description of the barn is, by all accounts, the most delicious, detailed, and delectable text I think I've ever read (of course, it helps that I spent summer's exploring the nooks and crannies of my sister's barn)!  I shudder when I read it!*
     When I was at The Tattered Cover a few weeks ago, The Story of Charlotte's Web caught my eye... perhaps because of the simplicity of the cover which includes the picture of E.B. White as a child.  It made it into my shopping basket.  And, I'm so glad it did!
     Michael Sims has paid humble homage to White in this book.  E.B. White, shy and unassuming, makes for delightful subject matter.  Sims explores White's life, his writing, and his connection to nature with depth and candor.  He spends most of the book exploring Charlotte's Web from both the point of view of a writer and a philosopher.  Michael Sims writes about White with utmost respect.  
     I love that White describes himself as a "writing fool" as a child and I think my students will love to hear that.  In today's program-oriented climate, I worry sometimes that we're not nurturing our students to become "writing fools" as much as we are nudging them into the realms of "foolish writing!"  Sometimes it takes a detailed account of a writer's life to remind us what that life can and should look like... full of words, poetry, essay, exploration, research, and writing!  Sometimes we have to be reminded of what a writer is... and, in turn, help define for our students what power writing brings to their young lives (and ourselves perhaps)!
  NPR did a wonderful story on this book.  Why not take a read and a listen"It's not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both" (White, 1952, p. 184).  In this case, both White and Sims are tremendous writers!

*White's description is a great cousin text to the beginning pages of The Winter Room by Gary Paulsen.

1 comment:

  1. LOVED this! I read EB White's essays while traveling Europe 20 years ago, and I read this one on the plane home from Belgium this year.