Born on July 11, 1899 in Mount Vernon, New York, E.B. White (Elwyn Brooks, called Andy by his friends) was a prolific essayist and columnist. His star in the firmament of children’s literature is firmly fixed as the author of Charlotte’s Web (1952), Stuart Little (1945), and The Trumpet of the Swan (1970).
As he wrote, “Writing for children is usually regarded as a separate form of madness. I came to it by accident and stayed with it when it proved to be much like other kinds of writing—hard work, followed by pleasing rewards.”
Of Charlotte’s Web, Ursula Nordstrom, the renowned HarperCollins editor, wrote in a letter to Mr. White, “I have never encountered any story plot like Charlotte’s Web. I do not believe that any other writer has ever told about a spider writing words in its web. Perhaps I should ask some of the children’s book ladies who go back even further in time than I do, but I am sure nothing even remotely like this has been written. I believe Charlotte is the first spider since Miss Muffet’s.”
After graduating from Cornell University in 1921, he roamed the United States for six years, taking jobs here and there. He then moved back to New York, where he was employed writing a regular column for The New Yorker from 1926 to 1938.
Although he remained on The New Yorker’s staff for the rest of his life, he moved to Maine, where he observed firsthand the animals about whom he wrote in his books for children. In 1929, he married Katherine Sargeant Angell, The New Yorker’s literary editor. From 1938 to 1945 he wrote a column called “One Man’s Meat” for Harper’s magazine. Many high school and college students know him as one-half of the team who produced Strunk & White’s Elements of Style.
E.B. White died of Alzheimer’s disease on October 1, 1985 in Maine. During his lifetime, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, a Pulitzer Prize special citation, the National Medal for Literature, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal in 1970, and numerous other honors.