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Some Writer!: The Story of E. B. White

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“SOME PIG,” Charlotte the spider’s praise for Wilbur, is just one fondly remembered snippet from E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. In Some Writer!, the two-time Caldecott Honor winner Melissa Sweet mixes White’s personal letters, photos, and family ephemera with her own exquisite artwork to tell his story, from his birth in 1899 to his death in 1985. Budding young writers will be fascinated and inspired by the journalist, New Yorker contributor, and children’s book author who loved words his whole life. This authorized tribute is the first fully illustrated biography of E. B. White and includes an afterword by Martha White, E. B. White's granddaughter.  

176 pages, Hardcover

First published October 4, 2016

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About the author

Melissa Sweet

140 books176 followers
There is more than one author with this name

Melissa Sweet grew up in a suburban neighborhood that had lots of kids, kick-the-can games on summer nights, and Percy's candy store right nearby.

Later she received her Associate’s Degree from Endicott Junior College in Beverly, Massachusetts, and studied art at the Kansas City Art Institute.

Sweet began began illustrating children's books in 1986 and has illustrated more than 60 books. Her work can also be seen in magazines, on posters, children's toys and food packaging.

Sweet’s signature style of whimsical watercolors is often enhanced by collage art when she finds objects and details that are appropriate to the story.

Sweet lives with her husband and step-daughter in a small coastal Maine village near a working harbor. Above her drafting table there’s a quote from the poet Mary Oliver: “To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.”

Sweet says "That’s good, because I often find myself taking walks, gardening, biking, but I’m taking it all in and it somehow shows up in my books.

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5 stars
2,709 (49%)
4 stars
1,586 (29%)
3 stars
607 (11%)
2 stars
308 (5%)
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257 (4%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,104 reviews
Profile Image for Julie G .
858 reviews2,639 followers
January 29, 2019
This book is magical. I could feel it the moment I held it in my hands. It's so alive, it seems as though it has a pulse of its own.

I can not recommend it enough. Do not be fooled, thinking it is a "children's book." My children are precious, but this is not for them. It is for me, and for all lovers of E.B. White, all writers, and all biography aficionados.

I have loved E.B. White since my childhood, and I consider Charlotte's Web one of the most perfect books ever written. I have more recently discovered his "adult essays," and I cry or laugh through most of them.

I now love Melissa Sweet as well, for this inspired and wonderful book. I had moments while I was reading this that my hands shook, and moments where spontaneous tears ran down my face.

I would love to fill this review with quote after quote from the book, but it would be more useful for me to say. . . go get it. You won't regret it.

I must at least include this one quote, from E.B. White:

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.

Dig? No. You don't need to dig in his work to find the love. It's all over the place.

You lovely man, you break my heart with your beauty.
Profile Image for Debbie.
687 reviews426 followers
March 20, 2022
Why I chose to read this book:
1. since I love E.B. White's children's stories, my GR friend, Darla, recommended it; and,
2. it fits perfectly in my "Memoirs & Biographies Month".

It earned 5 stars from me because:
1. I think author and illustrator Melissa Sweet would agree with E.B. White's quote that this book "...would seem to be for children, but I'm not fussy who reads it." This fascinating biography would be especially poignant for readers familiar with Stuart Little, The Trumpet of the Swan (which I have read aloud numerous times to students over the years), and Charlotte's Web (my personal favorite);
2. I admire the authentic scrapbook-look that Sweet depicts with her signature collage illustrations using mixed media embedded within the text and even on the endpapers;
3. Sweet successfully represents White's wish for simplicity in life and in his writing (i.e. omit needless words); and,
4. I had to laugh after reading Samuel White's "flowery" letter to his son on his twelfth birthday. It was quite clear as to why Elwyn chose to portray his father as the cob in The Trumpet of the Swan.

Overall, a feeling of warmth enveloped me while reading this biography. I highly recommend this book to readers who enjoy E.B. White's children's literature!

Thank you, Darla, for your insightful recommendation!
Profile Image for Diane Barnes.
1,211 reviews453 followers
February 8, 2019
I don't read many children's books anymore, since my daughter is grown and I have no grandchildren (I know, my loss). But after seeing some magnificent reviews lately, and because E.B. White's essays are favorite reading material for me, I knew I had to check it out. This is everything they said, and more. A simple story of a simple man who never wanted to be famous, but just enjoy his farm in Maine and write about things he lived. Illustrated with collages, photographs, bits of typewritten letters and manuscript pages, it also gives us wonderful tidbits about the hows and whys of Stuart Little, Charlotte's Web, and Trumpet of the Swan. I read this on Hoopla, but have to put a real copy on my wishlist, because I so wanted to reach in and touch the pages on my Kindle. Alas, as wonderful as my Kindle is, it can't do that.
Profile Image for Kate Willis.
Author 16 books480 followers
December 29, 2017
When I’m dead and famous, please write my biography exactly like this one. It felt like reading a scrapbook with all the photographs, newspaper clippings, and letters scattered throughout. The scrapbooked decorations were adorable, and the illustration style was very fun. <3 Quite the aesthetically pleasing book! My favorite part was when it showed the six different drafts of the first line for Charlotte’s Web. I quite identified with his author-ly struggle. ;) E.B. White led an enthusiastic, jam-packed life. His was a lesson in gleaning experience, joy, and wonder from every circumstance. His sense of humor was up my alley, and I love his frank yet whimsical writing style.

Since this book was written for children, the author did a good job of keeping things light and engaging. I was especially delighted to see two of my other literary favorites featured in this book. Garth Williams is my all-time favorite illustrator, and William J. Strunk is the best. I’ve personally learned a ton from The Elements of Style so it was great to hear a little more about the men behind it. Just a note that the way in which he met and married his wife is not God-honoring but kept brief and vague.

Best 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.”

Altogether, I can’t remember the last time I’ve enjoyed a biography so much! I’d definitely recommend this book to every author, artist, and booklover. ;)
Profile Image for Hannah.
225 reviews1 follower
April 19, 2016
"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."
To start: E. B. White is one of my most favorite authors. Ever. His books are crackling with heart and charm and are true to the spirit of childhood. And anyone who can write mere letters that I will willingly sit and read for hours has some serious magical talent.
I’ve also been in awe of Melissa Sweet’s work since I first read Balloons Over Broadway--I love how she dives into the depths of her subject and brings their essence into both her writing and her completely unique collage art.
In SOME WRITER!, she does just that with White, and in doing so, she lets his wit, whimsy, and charisma sparkle through. Reading Sweet’s loving tribute to White feels like you are in conversation with the great writer--maybe drifting along in a canoe on the Belgrade Lakes or digging down in the muck of the pig pen on his Maine farm--and you listen in awe as he recounts his years as a precocious young writer and his unlikely yet inevitable rise to literary fame. This is a thoughtful, engaging, simply breathtaking biography that is both TERRIFIC and RADIANT. Kids (and adults) will love reading this book not just for the compelling subject, but for the playful delectation in the act of meandering through its pages. Clearly Sweet, like Charlotte, is “in a class by herself!”
Profile Image for Colby Sharp.
Author 4 books1,100 followers
April 11, 2016
A 176 page picture book biography? Yes, please!

Some Writer! is one of the best biographies, for kids, that I have ever read. This books has to be in the conversation for all the major awards: Sibert, Newbery, Caldecott.
Profile Image for Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance.
5,740 reviews279 followers
July 16, 2017
I love Melissa Sweet's writing, but it's the illustrations she makes to accompany her text that wows me. Sweet's technique is unique; she uses a collage of real objects. Her art almost has a 3-D effect.

Great writing.
Knock-your-socks-off illustrations.
And E. B. White.

It's to die for.
Profile Image for Suzy.
748 reviews237 followers
February 6, 2019
Feb 6, 2019: I'm sure this will be a highlight of my reading year and anticipate it will lead to much reading of E. B. White, or Andy as we learn he was called by friends and family all his life. The book itself is a colorful work of art, filled with photographs, collage and quotes/passages recreated on a manual typewriter by Melissa Sweet. I only knew the bare bones of White's life story and am so happy to have learned more about this man who started writing as a boy and never stopped until just days before he took his last breath.

Whether you know E. B. White through his three children's books or collections of his essays and letters, and no matter your age, my hunch is you will love this book! And if you are a budding or established writer, all the better. I foresee becoming an evangelist for Some Writer!: The Story of E. B. White.

Feb 3, 2019: I'm only about 1/3 of the way through this and deeming it 5 stars! Completely captivated by this illustrated biography of one of my favorite authors. Aimed at children, but this adult is enthralled.

Why I'm reading this: after seeing Julie's loving review and then learning it was on the shelf ready to be checked out at my local library, I jumped right in!
Profile Image for Manybooks.
3,011 reviews104 followers
October 18, 2019
From a narrational point of departure, yes indeed, I definitely do find Melissa Sweet’s middle grade biography of E.B White (which I also believe would likely be of interest to and for adult readers), I do consider her Some Writer: The Story of E.B. White almost textually perfect and namely so because in my opinion, Melissa Sweet sticks to the rules of writing and the elements of composition that always seemed part and parcel to E.B. White’s own work and were his constant guideposts (to focus and not veer off topic, to not use too many gratuitous, superfluous words).

And therefore, while Melissa Sweet does of course present E.B. White’s entire life, because her title Some Writer: The Story of E.B. White indicates to me that her main focus will be or rather that it is supposed to be on E.B. White’s development and work as an author, thankfully she focuses very distinctly and deliberately on how E.B. White became a writer, on his verbal development, and yes, also on his three children’s books, on Stuart Little, Charlotte’s Web and The Trumpet of the Swan, which I absolutely do massively appreciate and cherish. For far far too often I have read biographies of famous authors in which their oeuvre and their attitudes towards writing and being an author are sometimes literally buried far beneath either avalanches of to and for me unimportant minutiae of details or even worse sensationalism and rumour, something that thankfully never once appears to be the case in Some Writer: The Story of E.B. White, giving first and foremost a portrait of E.B. White the author, and which in my opinion and according to the book title is the way things definitely should be. And combined with the detailed supplemental information (expansive time lines, endnotes and a very good select bibliography), yes and certainly, if I were to actually judge Some Writer: The Story of E.B. White only and simply according to Melissa Sweet’s presented narrative, I would most definitely be considering four and perhaps even five stars.

However, as much as I have both very much enjoyed and appreciated how Melissa Sweet has penned Some Writer: The Story of E.B. White, personally, I have generally mostly felt rather annoyed with and distracted by the included illustrations and visuals. For me, they have felt annoyingly disruptive and to the point that I was sometimes even taken right out of the narrative, something I certainly have not appreciated, especially since in my opinion, NONE of the included visuals are actually really all that necessary for understanding and enjoying Some Writer: The Story of E.B. White (and which is also why instead of four stars, this is but a three star read for me, a very highly recommended three stars, to be sure, but I cannot really consider four stars for a book where the illustrations have mostly felt majorly distracting and even unnecessary).
Profile Image for Betsy Robinson.
Author 9 books992 followers
February 6, 2019
This sumptuously illustrated biography for children is catnip for adult lovers of E. B. White. In fact, for ladies with a sapiosexual proclivity (look it up), E. B. White is possibly the sexiest man who ever lived.

Thank you to Julie Grippo for reviewing this book and stirring up things all over the place.
Profile Image for Olivia-Savannah .
648 reviews453 followers
August 22, 2017
This book is a non-fiction biography of E.B. White’s life for young readers and adults alike. The funny thing is that I won this book in a giveaway which I really can’t remember entering at all! It was on Instagram but I am very happy to have won because I really enjoyed reading this book. When I started reading it I was unaware of the fact that E.B. White is the author of Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little. Although I haven’t read the latter I’m well acquainted with the movie as it was part of my childhood. Anyway, I didn’t realise I had read any of the author’s works so I assumed I was reading about an author who was entirely unfamiliar to me. I don’t even know how I might have missed that…

I was so happily shocked when I came to the realization that I did know this author and have actually read some of their works. There’s something different about reading a biography when you are more involved in the author/celebrity’s life and feel like you share some sort of connection with them.

But even if I hadn’t realised this, I would’ve still enjoyed the book. Because I’d really been enjoying the simplistic and clear style in the way that this biography was told. If I was a child or an adult I
would clearly be able to get the idea of the way E.B. White lived and how he was the kind of writer who wouldn’t obey rules and regulations and just wrote what he wanted to. He wrote what made him happy. He loved life and his family and his barn full of animals. He went on things like unannounced road trips where he would travel the country and do work for free dinners and meals just to experience going with the flow and living in the moment. He saw the value in the little things and this biography showed me that.

I also really loved the format and illustrations/art included in this biography. There is a boring way to tell a biography, but the artwork in this book really does speak for itself. As E.B. White himself is
incredibly creative, it just seemed so fitting that his biography was told with creativity as well. I loved it and this book is beautiful both in word content and art content alike.

It’s a short read and really quick – I finished it in a single day. For someone who struggles with non-fiction but still wants to know more about the authors they admire (like me), this is the perfect way of telling a biography. I could only wish that there were more out there like this
one. ^.^

This review and others can be found on Olivia's Catastrophe: http://oliviascatastrophe.com/2017/01...
Profile Image for Abigayle Claire.
Author 8 books217 followers
February 4, 2017
Oh my goodness, this book is so beautiful and such a fun insight on Elwyn Brooks White. I didn't know much about his personal life--just the beauty of the world he conveyed through his writing. But learning about his poetry that gained him recognition from a young age, his lifelong position at The New Yorker, and the simple way he strived to live life ... it was so inspiring! I loved how he remained true to his own writing, never caving to the pressure to write what other people wanted him to, but instead writing what he loved. I need to go reread all his children's books now!
Profile Image for Agnė.
744 reviews57 followers
October 13, 2017
3.5 out of 5
It would be unfair for me to assume/generalize about the appeal of Some Writer! to a child audience because 1) I am not a child anymore, 2) I don't work with children, and 3) different children have different preferences/interests. So, instead, I will tell you what I think about this book as an adult. Here we go:

1) Some Writer! is a well-researched (as evident from the extensive back matter), lovingly written, and gorgeously illustrated biography in a picturebook/chapter book format that feels less like a book and more like an interactive museum (or a scrapbook) as the text is interspersed with photographs, mixed-media illustrations, quotes, letters, book excerpts, hand-written and typed manuscripts, journal entries, and newspaper clippings:

2) I only have read Charlotte's Web and in general knew nothing about E.B. White before, so after reading Some Writer! I felt that I learned more about him as a person. However, only after reading the timeline at the end of the book did I grasp the full magnitude of his literary and critical contributions to American literature. Therefore, Some Writer! seems to be doing a great job at portraying E.B. White's personal life (although it could be argued that the picture of E.B. White that Melissa Sweet is painting is rather idealistic) but fails to emphasize his achievements.

3) Although I liked the book's interactive format and Sweet's illustrations from the very beginning, I only got into the story somewhere around the third chapter when E.B. White was about to go to college. The first two chapters about the author's childhood seemed like a rushed and vague jumble of random facts, and I felt that I learned almost nothing about E.B. White as a child. Not the strongest beginning for a book, especially the one targeted at a child audience.
Profile Image for Melora.
575 reviews139 followers
February 27, 2018
A perfect blending of brief biography; excerpts from White's essays, letters, and books; and artwork, including photographs, illustrations from White's books, and Sweet's wonderful drawings and collages. The Afterward by Martha White is lovely, confirming for the reader that Melissa Sweet did well, concluding, “Here in these pages, you will find the grandfather I remember so well, the man with a dachshund on his desk and his hands on a manual typewriter.”
Profile Image for Edie.
463 reviews13 followers
April 16, 2016
I read this book in one sitting, so captivated by the charm of the subject and the author/illustrator and the affection that Sweet clearly feels for her subject. The biography is full of quotes from White, samples of his manuscripts, photographs and other memorabilia, as well, of course, as Sweet' interpretations of the events she describes. She is the perfect author for this subject, as White's grand-daughter asserts at the end of the book. The source notes and bibliography will boggle your mind, but this book is a labor of love and you get the feeling that Sweet loved every minute she worked on it. There's lots of sage advice included here, White's sense that children knew better than adults (especially when the adults panned Stewart Little). The 1973 letter that concludes Sweet's writing is a comforting thought in our own troubled time. This book makes you remember the power of words in the hand of a good writer, here the subject of the book and the author, as well as the power of illustration and the joy of knowing that there are books out there that will sustain us all no matter what.
Profile Image for Laura Harrison.
975 reviews111 followers
October 5, 2016
Where do I begin with Some Writer!? Every facet of Melissa Sweet's new biography is a masterpiece. The writing, the astonishingly unique and creative artwork-I could go on and on. The incredible dust jacket art is going to have some embellishments in the form of 2017 award stickers in a few months. No doubt in my mind. Bravo, Melissa Sweet!
Profile Image for Krista the Krazy Kataloguer.
3,873 reviews263 followers
December 22, 2017
I love Melissa Sweet's picture books, and now I know that she writes excellent chapter books as well. I have loved E.B. White's books, but never knew much about the man. I didn't know that he wrote poetry (must look into that) or that he worked for The New Yorker for so many years. I would love to read his 2 collections of Newsbreaks from that magazine. I also never connected him with the the White of Strunk and White's The Elements of Style, which I used in college. He only wrote 3 children's books, yet he had such an impact on children's literature. A timeline at the end contains all of his books in the order in which he wrote them.

Sweet's illustrations here are unique, because she uses a combination of photos, quotes done on an old manual typewriter such as White would have used, and small objects found in an office from the early 20th century. The result is a sense of being back in time, living White's life alongside him. Wish I could have met him. But young readers still can, in a way, by reading this book. Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Beth.
1,133 reviews109 followers
January 25, 2022
This is delightful*: beautifully presented, with a lot of White's writing included. White's writing is so transcendent that it elevates the entire book - the biographical information is nice and all, but it, the pictures, and the collages feel secondary to the main content: those words.

*This sentence included the word "absolutely" before "delightful." It has been cut because I am now more conscious of unnecessary words.
Profile Image for Lauren Stoolfire.
3,405 reviews256 followers
November 19, 2016
I knew that I had to try this biography after my old kindergarten teacher recommended her most recent read. I'm very glad I did because this picture book style memoir of the author of Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little is an absolute must read for fans or anyone intrigued by his fascinating life story.
Profile Image for Lindsay Fouts.
195 reviews144 followers
May 6, 2022

** 2022 Re-read**

**Original review**

I stumbled upon this book at the library, and I am sure glad I did.

What a treasure this book is, and the artwork is beautiful.

Now, I think I need to re-read Charlotte's Web.
Profile Image for Emily.
849 reviews140 followers
November 16, 2019
It's the first time I've ever seen a biography of a non-visual artist take the form of artwork with accompanying text, but it's immensely visually appealing, and if you know and love E.B. White's books, learning about his life is a bonus.

A sidenote: When I'm reading any sort of work that touches on the history of 20th century American children's literature, I have a perverse tendency to boo when pioneering children's librarian Anne Carroll Moore enters the scene. Here, I have to admit that I'm actually team ACM on the subject of Stuart Little. Apparently, unlike most children, I was not swept away by the magic of the story telling to the extent of not bothering about the fact that Stuart's human mother gave birth to a mouse.
Author 10 books627 followers
June 20, 2016
Charlotte's Web was the very first read aloud novel I shared with our oldest daughter, Theadora. While I knew what was coming, I still cried right along with her when it got to that point. We still marveled at the story, breathed it in together, and thus the book became a part of the narrative that weave us together as a family. I was therefore excited to read Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet, because it turns out there is so much I did not know about the famous author who has brought the story of Wilbur and Charlotte into our lives.

This book, by far, is one the best biographies I have ever read. The depth of knowledge, the whimsical magic of the illustrations, and the sheer breadth of information is, indeed, wondrous. I kept taking pictures of quotes I wanted to write down, as well as things I wanted to use as teaching materials with my students. I had several students in mind that I want to hand this to as I was reading it as well, thinking of those who love writing, who need inspiration, or who just need an amazing book.

Biographies can be hard to read and write, I feel. They often fit a narrow audience because of the way they are written or you are not quite sure that children will stick with them. But this one sets the bar. This is the book I want to use to teach my students how to write non-fiction, this is the book I want to use when I want to teach them how to be better writers, period. I am so grateful to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book, I already ordered another for my classroom, because I think this one will just reside in my house as I try to find my own inspiration to write. What a tale! What a book! What a life!

This is absolutely appropriate for any age and could be used elementary through college.
Profile Image for Scottsdale Public Library.
3,153 reviews193 followers
February 1, 2017
This is a beautifully written children's biography about a beloved children's book author, but the best part of this book is how absolutely gorgeous it is! I learned a lot about E.B. White and his writing, as well as his general love for language, all while being wowed by the scrap-book style artwork. Melissa Sweet obviously spent so much time and love on this book. Highly recommended! - Michelle V.
Profile Image for LynnDee (LynnDee's Library).
505 reviews38 followers
February 1, 2017
This is a pretty quick read due to the fact that a lot of the pages are beautiful artwork. Really interesting biography about the author of Stuart Little & Charlotte's Web. You got a sense that he really respected children and the way they read. Makes me want to reread Charlotte's Web.
Profile Image for Anna Smithberger.
716 reviews3 followers
January 13, 2017
What an absolutely gorgeous book! Were I not about to begin storytime I would spend an hour in a corner weeping about the beauty of telling stories for children!
Profile Image for Beckbunch.
126 reviews3 followers
April 13, 2018
I've had Charlotte's Web on the mind recently and so when I saw this illustrated biography on display in the children's section at the library, I picked it up. I'm so glad I did. love reading how author's lives influence their work and how their writing evolves. Melissa Sweet included photos of White's many versions of the first page of Charlotte's Web. He crossed things out, drew arrows going here and there, and worked and re-worked the first line until he eventually settled on, "Where's Papa going with that axe?" It was obviously the right choice. I admired White's desire to live simply and his devotion to his family and farm. I loved how when he read the audio recording for Charlotte's Web, he had to do 17 takes of the part where Charlotte dies because he kept getting choked up. It reminded me of my husband reading the book to our kids, many years ago. He had the same problem and also had to do "several takes" of that section. Definitely a classic.
Profile Image for Becca Harris.
376 reviews28 followers
March 16, 2022
This book is a treasure. I borrowed this from the library but it will have to be one I own. I love that this is written well enough to be interesting for children who have fallen in love with E.B. White's novels, but it's also just as engaging for adult readers. Melissa Sweet did a marvelous job of making his life sound so interesting. He really must have been a gentle, kind soul. The way the book was designed is just brilliant - so colorful and aesthetically pleasing. I'm excited after reading this to re-read his children's books and to dig into his essays!
Profile Image for Melanie.
624 reviews
April 9, 2017
Wonderful biography of E.B White and fantasticly put together. I loved how it was illustrated and the use of quotes to underscore his writing style, approach, and personality. Stuart Little was one of my favourite books and my sister loved Charlotte's Web. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Sophfronia Scott.
Author 12 books254 followers
November 16, 2021
This book is a treasure. I enjoyed the brilliant collages and the well written story of a beloved author. I know I will page through it again and again. Sweet captures White's wonder of the world and that inspires me to have such wonder in my life.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,104 reviews

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