Parents' Guide to

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

By Jan Carr, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 5+

Gentle bio of "Charlotte's Web" author is full of charm.

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This gentle biography of beloved children's book author E.B. White reads more like a sweet story than dry reportage and drives home the message that shy, observant kids can grow up to create great art. In A Boy, a Mouse, and a Spider: The Story of E.B. White, author Barbara Herkert takes a subtle approach and never bombards readers with facts; those can be found in the three-page author's note at back. Her text also has quiet echoes of E.B. White's style. Where White used lists to evoke the sensory pleasures of a barn -- "the nearness of rats, the sameness of sheep, the love of spiders, the smell of manure ..." -- Herkert inserts similar lists throughout, such as "the ripe scent of manure, the creak of harness leather, the perfect shape of eggs, the snort of tired horses ..."

Lauren Castillo's textured illustrations echo the homespun warmth of the original art of Garth Williams (Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little). Though here, instead of seeing young Fern in the barn visiting her animal friends, she sets Elwyn on the three-legged stool, underscoring the point that White had many of the same experiences he later gave his characters. The text and art together feel hushed, celebrating life's quiet spaces. And since the book directly poses the question "I wonder what I might be?" kids can be inspired when Elwyn realizes: "Writing filled him with joy. This is where I belong."

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