"Anyone who writes down to children is simply wasting his time.
You have to write up, not down. Children are demanding. They are the
most attentive, curious, eager, observant, sensitive, quick, and
generally congenial readers on earth...Children are game for anything.
I throw them hard words and they backhand them over the net."
Sometimes I open a book and fall head over heels in awe with
it. Such was the case with Melissa Sweet's Some Writer! The Story Of
E. B. White.
All too often biographies are dreadfully formulaic, no matter
how fascinating the person written about, especially those meant for
adult readers. You get page upon page of words enlivened only by the
occasional photograph. There is a snobby misconception that pictures
are a mere scaffolding for those still mastering literacy. Therefore
proficiency involves being able to do without. What rubbish! Our
brains process words and images in different and complimentary ways.
When well coupled they allow even the most sophisticated of readers to
grasp much more than text alone.
Some Writer!, in contrast, is a total immersion experience! It
gives a visceral sense of whom E. B. White was. To begin with, the
verbal and visual elements are intimately intertwined. Photographs,
sketches, handwritten letters, and other treasures enliven the text.
Rather than just reading about it, you actually enter into White's
world from his early childhood through the years in which he claimed
that, "Old age is a special problem for me because I've never been
able to shed the mental image I have of myself--a lad of about
Also you get a lot of White's own reflections in his distinct
voice. A prize example involves a coast to coast post (college)
excursion he took with a close friend:
"The Model T was not a fussy car. It sprang cheerfully toward
any stretch of wasteland whether there was a noticeable road under
foot or not...the course of my life was changed by it, and it is in a
class by itself. It was cheap enough so I could afford to buy one; it
was capable enough so it gave me courage to start."
A half century later (1973) White penned a pensive reflection
that rings even more true today;
"...It is quite obvious that the human race has made a queer
mess of life on this planet. But as a people we probably harbor seeds
of goodness that have lain for a long time, waiting to sprout when the
conditions are right. Man's curiosity, his relentlessness, his
inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can
only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out."
Some Writer! is a must read for fans of E. B. White's children's
books and anyone who aspires to write for juvenile readers. I know I
plan to reread his children's classics and get my hands on his volumes
I have decided if I ever get famous enough as a writer anyone
would want to write my biography (A girl can dream) it will be done in
a blended text picture format even if it's for adults. Page upon page
of black and white paragraphs would never do justice to my vibrant,
flamboyant self. ;-)
On a personal note, White and I are kindred spirits. We both had
adventures in our pre marriage years. Once, coming back to Maine from
a wedding, a friend and I slept on the bank of the Hudson River. It
was just us when we spread out sleeping bags. When we woke up we were
surrounded by scads of other free spirits who followed our example.
Someone even bought doughnuts and coffee for the entire group. :-)
I had tears in my eyes when I read this quote. "All that I hope to
say in books, all that I ever hope to say, is that I love the world.
I guess you can find that in there, if you dig around." I feel the
same way. You may have to dig around with my more critical poetry and
opinion pieces. But if I did not love the world so deeply, and
sometimes desperately, I would not set pen to paper or thumb to iPod.
A great big shout out goes out to all of us who express our love for
the world through writing and art.
Sent from my iPod