"Elegant and evocative"
TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT (England)
"Novelistic in its scene-setting"
"Charming .... Riveting"
MAIL ON SUNDAY (England)
"Evocative and subtle"
"Lovingly rendered portrait"
L. A. REVIEW OF BOOKS
"A delight to read"
LINCOLN JOURNAL STAR
"A pleasant, informative read"
WALES ON SUNDAY
"Insightful and delightful"
THE TIMES (London)
"Here is a new perspective"
SACRAMENTO BOOK REVIEW
"Entertaining, occasionally whimsical"
SUNDAY EXPRESS (London)
"White's attention to detail is mimicked by Sims"
SUNDAY STAR TIMES (New Zealand)
"Warm-hearted and intelligent"
THE POST (Ireland)
"Full, engaging . . . wonderful anecdotes"
L. A. TIMES
"A wealth of colorful information"
SUNDAY HERALD (Scotland)
"Beautifully written, thought-provoking"
"Like his other books, a fascinating read"
CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER
"Sims has told it well"
"Wonderful. A perfect read for this season"
"Rich, touching, endearing, funny and fascinating"
"An affectionate homage"
"Lovely and empathetic"
"A paean to a great work"
CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR Editor's Choice
"Engaging, distilled, highly focused"
BARNES & NOBLE REVIEW
"Beautifully written and researched"
"A fine stylist"
WALL STREET JOURNAL
"Stunning, almost novelistic"
"Sims is uniquely qualified"
"Built on revealing glimpses"
"A really lovely book"
"An honorable addition to the literature of letters"
"Unpacks the appeal of Charlotte's Web"
"Goes back to Zuckerman's farm"
"A pocket biography"
Chosen as One of the Notable Books of the Year by
Kansas City Star
Recommended by Encyclopedia Britannica
Winner of AudioFile's "Earphones" award for the audiobook read by actor Nick Sullivan
IN ITS THIRD PRINTING
Download the digital audio edition.
Order the six-CD audio edition.
A one-hour interview with "Radio Times" on WHYY
A half-hour interview on Australia's public radio program "The Book Show"
A one-hour interview and call-ins on NPR's "Science Friday"
Maureen Corrigan's 6-minute review on NPR's "Fresh Air"
An interview (beginning at 16:30) on the BBC's "Americana" program, from inside E. B. White's barn in Maine
A 10-minute interview on WHQR (Wilmington, North Carolina)
A 15-minute interview on "Roundtable" from WAMC (Albany, New York)
A one-hour roundtable discussion on "The Colin McEnroe Show" from WNPR (Hartford, Connecticut)
A 14-minute interview with WBUR in Boston
A one-hour broadcast of NPR's "Here on Earth"
Chapter 1 appears in Reader's Digest.
A Kirkus Reviews interview.
An interview with BookPage, "Bringing a Classic to Life."
A Smithsonian article about E. B. White, by Chloë Schama, including an interview with Michael Sims.
An essay on E. B. White's quirky attitudes toward animals, requested by the Chronicle Review (in the Chronicle of Higher Education) upon publication of The Story of Charlotte's Web.
EXCERPTS FROM REVIEWS
"The story behind a novel (or any book), as Michael Sims knows, is the story of a writer and what a writer knows. He quotes E. B. White: 'Remember that writing is translation, and the opus to be translated is yourself.' Given this tacit permission to look behind White’s work at White himself, Sims is also aware that White is being interpreted as a character in the story being told in the biography. So, cutting through several levels of White’s life as a child, as a New Yorker editor, essayist, grammarian and family man, he opts to focus on White’s interest in natural history and farming. . . . Sims’s valuable study is insightful and delightful."
—Iain Finlayson, THE TIMES (London)
"Michael Sims's biography encapsulates E. B. White's life and times, portrays his personality and sensibility, and depicts in detail the locations from Maine to Manhattan which inspired his writing. It is an elegant and evocative brief history, replete with fascinating material on topics ranging from children's periodicals to arachnology."
—Alison Kelly, TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT (England)
"Sims reveals the development of writer E.B. White as he created one of the most cherished and popular of children’s books. . . . . Readers of Charlotte and Wilbur’s adventure will learn just how much care and thought was put into rendering this classic work."
"As a literary rule of thumb, when a fictional animal figures in a book, a real animal is not far away. . . . A fascination for real spiders, and other creatures, underlay E.B. White’s classic children’s book about a certain arachnid of delicate sensibilities and stern character. Sims’s delightful book tells the story well."
—Gregory McNamee, ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANNICA
"A fascinating study of E. B. White, of his life, his character, his background, of what made him tick. . . . You feel like you're sitting next to [White and his wife] on their first date."
—RADIO TIMES (WHYY Philadelphia)
"Sims provides an elegant homage to the creative process. . . , while highlighting the empathy the author had for the human condition. . . . White found his place in the chaotic, thrilling offices of The New Yorker. Sims depicts the atmosphere of those city days, White’s friendship with James Thurber and his falling in love with Katharine Angell as elegantly as he does White’s other existence on the farm by Allen Cove, Maine. . . . Sims’s cameos of White’s collaborators are vivid; the publishing world of the time is caught in amber. Although this is not a conventional biography, much is gleaned by study of White’s imaginative response to the world around him, and the writer’s faith in clarity, honesty and directness."
—Rebecca K. Morrison, THE INDEPENDENT (England)
"In The Story of Charlotte's Web, Sims touches gently yet tantalizingly on every aspect of White's life, as if we were visitors in the Whites' home. We are shown the parlor, given a sandwich in the kitchen, taken to the porch for lemonade and then given a tour of the barn and all the animals; our host could not be more gracious. . . . We also see that if we only paused to climb this stair, open that curtain, lift the lid of one little box on the table, we would find many rooms, broad views, jewels well worth gazing at. Yet that would be prying. And what we are shown is so deep and sweet and true that I, at least, was more than content. . . . I have read many literary biographies that purported to show us the sources of a writer's work, but none as believable and satisfying as this one. Sims has created, in this study of a writer and his best-loved work, a literary work in its own right. It is, from beginning to end, a pleasure to read."
—Orson Scott Card, RHINO TIMES (Greensboro NC)
"Charming. . . . For anyone who wants to know the full story behind one of the most loved childre's books of all time, it is a riveting read."
—Kathryn Hughes, MAIL ON SUNDAY (England)
"Beguiling. . . . Sims has written a telescopic, rather than encompassing biography. He opens with the toddler Elwyn peering anxiously at hatching eggs and follows through to the adult White peering at a spider's web. . . . His book is novelistic in its scene-setting, and restrained, even deferential in tone. . . . Given the current ubiquity of warts-and-all biographies, this decision feels old-fashioned, but also nicely-judged, a relief even. Sims is excellent on the creative process of spinning Charlotte's Web; his language is clear and humorous. You could safely give this book to an intelligent teen. White would approve, I think."
—Bridget Hourican, IRISH TIMES
"There is so much to celebrate in Sims's book. His own descriptions of nature are evocative and subtle, and he probes at White's psyche without raking him over the coals. Fans of the New Yorker's heyday will find much to enjoy. . . . Equally engaging are a wealth of small details—how Wilbur got his name, how Charlotte's species was selected, how White overcame his aversion to rats, to create the wonderful character Templeton, and even how he chose the words that Charlotte would spin to save Wilbur's bacon. White fans will savour this, as will anyone wondering how an author is made, and how a book comes to life."
—Lee Randall, THE SCOTSMAN
"An account, smoothly told, of White's long love affair with the creatures of the natural world and, especially, spiders. . . . White struggled with the relationship between humans and animals, and partly resolved the tension by his writing, in which animals played major and sympathetic roles. . . . This book by Michael Sims is special, a delight to read."
—Charles Stephen, LINCOLN JOURNAL STAR
"Respected science writer Michael Sims moves into biography with this analysis of [E. B.] White's early life and influences, seeking his motivation for penning such a realistic, yet fantastical, view of farm life. A pleasant, informative read."
—WALES ON SUNDAY
"[E. B. White] was, according to Sims, a melancholy child, 'plagued by wild fantasies and indefinable nostalgia', with a 'vague sense of yearning and loss'. He was, in other words, perfect writer material. . . . In Charlotte's Web, according to Sims, White 'preserved in amber his response to the world'. Amber doesn't come from nowhere. Sims traces the roots of the novel. . . . Sims gets closest to describing White's true genius when discussing the characteristic tone of his work for the New Yorker, with its 'lushly textured observations and playing with language' and its 'ability to recount a passing experience and overlay it with both thoughtful irony and a kind of uncluttered clear-sightedness'."
—Ian Sansom, THE GUARDIAN (England)
"Both a well-researched and informative profile of the author and a thoughtful portrait of this captivating story’s creation. . . . An entertaining, insightful companion to a cherished novel that will deepen the appreciation of anyone who enjoys this delightful story."
—Harvey Freedenberg, HARRISBURG magazine
"Mr. Sims could argue that everything in White's life, particularly his lifelong obsession with the natural world, contributed to his masterpiece. . . . The chapters in which the author discusses the 'scribbled-over, endlessly revised pages' of Charlotte's Web from the Cornell University archives, coupled with excerpts from White's published letters and other sources, are especially interesting."
—Priscilla S. Taylor, WASHINGTON TIMES
"It is, of course, about Charlotte's Web, but it's also about how a little boy named Elwyn grew up to become the writer E.B. White. In this lovingly rendered portrait, Sims details a life of careful listening, insatiable curiosity, and empathy toward all living creatures from people to spiders to pigs (the exception being rodents, which is why Templeton, the rat, made for such a hilariously greedy character). . . . Charlotte's Web fans will be delighted to peruse the manuscript revisions and edited pages that Sims includes in his book. . . . That slow and steady pace in particular is what I've come away with in reading about the life of E.B. White."
—Kerry Madden, LOS ANGELES REVIEW OF BOOKS
"Tightly focused biography, written in a lucid prose worthy of White himself, and steeped in the kind of sensory detail that was White's professional bread and butter. The focus on White as the author of Charlotte's Web gives the book shape and flow but is not limiting. Sims traces direct influences, of course, such as his lifelong affinity for animals and the natural world, his childhood reading, and his early interest in writing, not to mention his deep-seated nostalgia and melancholia. But within that focus Sims tells a remarkably full story of White's life, covering his childhood, college years, New Yorker career, marriage to Katharine Angell, and self-reinvention as a Maine saltwater farmer—in sentence after faultless, graceful sentence. . . . Simply terrific."
—Martha V. Parravano, HORN BOOK
"Intriguing. . . . Sims illuminates an era of journalism and essay-writing through the war. His style also sings in tune with White's lyricism, especially in descriptions of nature and the farm."
—Nicolette Jones, SUNDAY TIMES (London)
"In this spry biography of Elwyn Brooks White, Sims immerses himself in White's oeuvre and channels his lucid prose style. . . . Admirers of White's essays and luminous children's literature will be delighted by this amiable chronicle."
"Sims's valuable study is insightful and delightful."
—THE TIMES (London)
"The book glows with excitement. . . . Here is a new perspective, not only an admiring biographical sketch but also a serious critique of the book that has enchanted as many adults as children."
—Jane Manaster, SACRAMENTO BOOK REVIEW
"Entertaining. . . . This is the biography its subject seems to have deserved. Gentle, occasionally whimsical, and always respectful, it is a glimpse into the life of a man whose status as one of the children's classic authors is assured."
—Virginia Blackburn, SUNDAY EXPRESS (London)
"White's attention to detail is mimicked by Sims, who often devotes pages to the important people in White's life and gives context to the utmost detail. . . . Sims' book, although occasionally dense, has exhaustive anecdotes about White's life and will most likely rekindle many love affairs with the beloved story."
—Kate Mead, SUNDAY STAR TIMES (New Zealand)
"Wonderful. . . . Sims' lively and detailed excursion into the mystery of how White's classic came to be is a perfect read for this season: full of grass and insects, pigs and summer rain. . . . The first two-thirds or so of The Story of Charlotte's Web recounts White's life up to his 50s, when he began writing his masterpiece. Good as it is, the final section of Sims' book is the real revelation—not only about the influences on Charlotte's Web, but about just how hard it was for White to write despite the fact that his style always seemed effortless."
—Maureen Corrigan, "Fresh Air," NPR
"Michael Sims' warm, thoughtful and compelling new book tells the story of White's life, filtered through his love of nature. . . . Sims carefully and unobtrusively shows how this relationship with nature influenced his writing throughout his career. . . . It's impossible to read this warm-hearted and intelligent book without developing not only respect but affection for E.B. White, and I suspect I wonât be the only reader who finishes The Story of Charlotte's Web gripped with the desire to reread White's novel for the first time since childhood."
—Anna Carey, THE POST (Ireland)
"A full, engaging account . . . . Sims includes wonderful anecdotes, such as how White settled upon Charlotte's surname (and the other characters' names), and how closely White collaborated with Garth Williams on the marvelous illustrations. Sims also includes drafts of White's cross-outs and false starts, revealing the author's rigorousness at every level. . . . The Story of Charlotte's Web unfolds in a way that White might have appreciated: It ambles, pauses to observe the smallest details, and takes its time. Best of all, this book is likely to encourage readers to experience the pleasures of White's novel all over again."
—Carmela Ciuraru, LOS ANGELES TIMES
"Compelling. . . . A wealth of colorful information. . . . With this well-focused overview, Sims illuminates White's complicated creative life and the events that led to a timeless tale that will stand for generations to come as testimony to his passion for nature."
—Rosemary Goring, SUNDAY HERALD (Scotland)
"Sims' forte is transmuting diligent research into entertaining narrative. Adam's Navel studies the human body from every possible angle. Apollo's Fire examines the views of poets and scientists about one day as experienced on Earth. Sims' interest in nature and literature make The Story of Charlotte's Web, like his other books, a fascinating read. . . . His graceful book demonstrates that describing the life of E.B. White and the creation of his greatest work are kindred things."
—Kathy Ewing, CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER
"Recounts the acclaimed author's life with a close affection; Sims paints a picture of a young, imaginative boy and, later, a man with a deep fascination with nature. As one of the best-known authors in American history, White's story—of his youth, his time on the family farm, his work with the New Yorker—is one that is rich and succinctly American, and Sims has told it well."
"Beautifully written, thoughtful, and thought-provoking. . . . Sims helps us to understand how it is that White's classic has endured, and will continue to do so."
—Serenity Gerbman, NASHVILLE SCENE
"A rich, touching tale. . . . By writing about White's influences and fears (especially those of attention and crowds), Sims has created an endearing, funny and fascinating look into the life and mind of a man who never wrote down to children, and whose legacy lives on because of it."
—Jen A. Miller, AMERICAN WAY (American Airlines' in-flight magazine)
"Quotidian memories have given us more great works than we can count. . . . Michael Sims illuminates one such tale inspired by E. B. White's childhood spent playing in barns and stables. His return to farming as an adult recalled those memories, but it was his new-found understanding of his role as nurturer and beneficiary of the animals he raised, as well as his awareness of mortality, that made the tale great. Memories are a rich source for writers, but as White himself explained in the epigraph to Sims's book, 'Real life is only one kind of lifethere is also the life of the imagination.' "
—Stacey Mickelbart, THE NEW YORKER
"Excellent. . . . In Sims's own pleasant style, free of the academic theorizing one fears in books about books, he tells us how a good man produced an unlikely work of greatness."
—Matthew Scully, WEEKLY STANDARD
"Sims offers an affectionate homage to E. B. White and his enduring trio: a spunky farm girl, a smart spider, and a remarkable pig."
"A fitting echo to the resolution of Charlotte's Web. . . . Sims seeks to explain why we feel the complicated way we do when we read White, and why his vision of a now-receding America, one that paid close heed to nature, still feels crucial. . . . . Sims is especially good at putting White's work in context [and] also good on the subjects of class and money. . . . Younger writers in particular may find this description of process bracing. Sims's research is thorough, his own prose clear, direct and concise: the ultimate homage. His book is a lovely and empathetic testament to E.B. White's vision of 'nature publishing herself.' "
—Valerie Sayers, WASHINGTON POST
"For every reader who grew up adoring the E.B. White classic Charlotte's Web (and is there really a reader among us who did not?), this summer holds a treat in store. The Story of Charlotte's Web by Michael Sims retraces White's path in writing the book and, in so doing, helps us to understand how so truly 'artless' a work of art was created. . . . The Story of Charlotte's Web is a paean to a great work and a window into the uniquely gifted man who created it."
—Marjorie Kehe, CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR, "Editor's Choice"
"Engaging, distilled, highly focused. . . . Sims traces the fascinating, painstaking evolution of White's second of three children's books . . . . With clarity and lack of stuffiness worthy of his subject, Sims succinctly sums up Charlotte's Web's major themes: "Mortality stalked the scene from the first line: 'Where is Papa going with that ax?' The farm animals spoke with casual familiarity of trouble and death…. But overall Andy's theme was the joy of being alive, of reveling in the moment with visceral attention." Sims brings visceral attention to this beloved classic, highlighting its many joys."
—Heller McAlpin, BARNES & NOBLE REVIEW
"[I approached] Michael Sims' The Story of Charlotte's Web with a great deal of trepidation. . . . What, I wondered, could anyone bring to White's opus that hadn't already been said elsewhere and, most likely, better? Having read it I can now answer: plenty. Sims gives White and his story a bright new light—refurbishing known information in an engaging way and adding in here and there new (at least to me) bits as well. Beautifully written and researched, the book is well worth anyone's time, not just those already acquainted with Charlotte's Web and its author. . . . I enjoyed tremendously the small elements that were new to me, say Sims' careful consideration of what the young Andy would have read. . . . Slowly building toward the creation of the book itself, Sims gives us White's development as a writer at The New Yorker, his writing of Stuart Little, his family life, and his experiences as a farmer in Maine. . . . As for the actual writing, publication, and reception of Charlotte's Web—even though much of it was familiar to me, I was engrossed in Sims' telling. And so here I am, chip off my shoulder, to recommend this book without reservations. Michael Sims' The Story of Charlotte's Web is not only for E. B. White fans and lovers of Charlotte's Web, but for anyone who enjoys a thoughtfully researched and written work of literary nonfiction."
—Monica Edinger, HUFFINGTON POST
"Michael Sims goes back to Zuckerman's farm to weave the story of Charlotte's Web."
"Joy, mingled with wistfulness, is the charm of Michael Sims's splendid The Story of Charlotte's Web . . . . A fine stylist, Mr. Sims portrays these scenes with a beauty and an economy of language that would make the co-author of The Elements of Style proud. He is a worthy disciple. . . . Mr. Sims recalls for us that White's former English professor, William Strunk (the original author of The Elements of Style), used to grasp his lapels in front of his Cornell classes and bellow, 'Omit needless words!' Strunk was right about that, but I am glad Mr. Sims did not scalpel out of his book all the things in White's life that did not bear directly on Charlotte's Web. He sees the man in the boy, and the boy in the man, devoted to 'the conservation of beauty in prose.' It's as if White were a bell and his biographer another, catching his life's resonance. . . . Mr. Sims thus gives us not only an engaging account of White's rise to literary prominence, through the New Yorker, but also his shyness, his awkwardness in love, his devotion to his wife, Katharine, and something else, something hard to identify but ever-present in the book, like the chirping of birds high in the trees at evening. White was not a religious man. But he was imbued with a sense of what Wilbur called 'the glory of everything.' Charlotte, writes Mr. Sims, 'embodied the spirit of the barn, which [White] had once described as almost a sacred place, a stage for birth and death and the rhythms of life.' "
—Anthony Esolen, WALL STREET JOURNAL
"[Sims] explores White's encounters with frogs and field mice, rivers and lakes, stars and centipedes, to paint a portrait of the writer as a devoted naturalist—the 20th-century heir to Thoreau, perhaps. White once wrote of himself, 'This boy felt for animals a kinship he never felt for people.' Examining White's regard for nature and animals, Sims unpacks the appeal of Charlotte's Web."
—Chloë Schama, SMITHSONIAN
"Michael Sims' The Story of Charlotte's Web is built on revealing glimpses of how 'reality and fantasy make good bedfellows,' as White himself wrote. . . . Accomplishes Sims' goal to explore 'how White translated his own passions and contradictions, delights and fears, into a book that has had astonishingly broad appeal across age groups and national boundaries.' . . . Sims draws a portrait of White as 'painfully shy, terrified of speaking in public or before a microphone—yet hugely ambitious and willing to try almost anything when no one was looking. Afraid of commitment and romance and confrontation, he hid behind animals even in his early love poems and letters to his wife.' Sims traces White's lifelong fascination with spiders, mice and pigs, from his privileged childhood in suburban Mount Vernon, N.Y., to his salt-water farm in Brooklin, Maine, where 'rather than a gentleman farmer, Andy liked to pretend that he was full-time farmer and a gentleman writer.' . . . In the best part of the book, Sims traces how much endless rewriting as well as research on spider-web construction went into Charlotte's Web. White's handwritten drafts, at Cornell's archives, are filled with words that are crossed out, entire scenes that are deleted, and notes to himself in the margins, ordering: 'Fix. Make Better.' The Story of Charlotte's Web should encourage re-readings of Charlotte's Web."
—Bob Minzesheimer, USA TODAY
"Sims recounts the wellsprings—familial, psychological, environmental, historical, educational, emotional and every other 'al' you can think of—about the little novel that tells how a spider named Charlotte saved a pig named Wilbur from being rendered into bacon. Mr. Sims, author and editor of many other books, does more than that. Besides providing a pocket biography of White, he explains what writing Charlotte's Web meant to the author and what reading it means to its young readers, things that are two sides of the same coin. . . . Mr. Sims' writing captures White's affection for his creatures and fits the mood of his subject nicely: 'Flotillas of fat black coots . . . . Chittering squadrons of barn swallows.' . . . . Mr. Sims carefully documents White's creative process."
—Roger K. Miller, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES
"In this immensely charming book, Michael Sims sketches White's life along with that of what is perhaps his most enduring creation, the children's classic Charlotte's Web. . . . Throughout Sims's book, another heroine emerges (besides Charlotte, of course): Katharine [White]. Both writers and pigs can be nervous about their place in the universe, not to mention their survival, and both need loving caretakers."
—Kate Tuttle, BOSTON GLOBE
"Sims examines how White mined his childhood friendships with animals for his children's classic, Charlotte's Web, which has sold 45 million copies around the world. 2012 is the 60th anniversary of its original publication."
—THE BOOKSELLER (U.K.)
"In a beautifully crafted narrative, Sims traces the life of E.B. White from his shy boyhood to his successful career as a New Yorker writer and editor who would create one of the most beloved childrenâs books of the 20th century. Readers learn about White's early love of the natural world, his devotion to his Maine farm and the long and thoughtful process that led to Charlotte's Web. . . . White researched spiders for a full year to bring realism to his portrayal of Charlotte A. Calvatica, and after he had finished a draft of the book, he put it away for almost a year to mull over his creation. . . . . I highly recommend it to any reader with an interest in E.B. White and Charlotte's Web, and more broadly, in children's literature, natural history and the beauty and mystery of the creative process. If you love books and the quirky, fascinating people who write them, youâll get caught up in The Story of Charlotte's Web."
—Lynn Green, BOOKPAGE editorial
"An affectionate biography examines the birth of an American classic. Sims concentrates on White's lifelong love of the natural world. . . . The author avoids the often-irritating tendency of literary biographers to foreshadow portentously from early experiences, allowing readers to draw their own connections. His examination of the genesis and development of Charlotte's Web . . . will thrill lovers of the novel. Sims quotes generously from White's working drafts, which were constantly in revision from the beginning. Descriptions of these pages offer both a fascinating insight into the writing process and crushing refutation of any claim that writing for children is easy. Packed with the same kind of sensory detail its subject reveled in, this account is an honorable addition to the literature of letters."
"The first section of the book is stunning, an almost novelistic recreation of the child Elwyn's imaginative world. . . . Sims' imaginative re-enactment of pivotal scenes in White's life is unconventional yet compelling . . . grounding the drama in solid historical research. . . . Sims deftly handles the writing and publication of Charlotte's Web, building thumbnail portraits of the legendary children's book editor Ursula Nordstrom and illustrator Garth Williams. But this biography is at its best in the barnyard, illuminating that 'sacred space' E.B. White brought to life in his beloved children's book."
—Catherine Hollis, BOOKPAGE
"Sims, as a droll observer of the natural world and editor of the annotated edition of one of E.B. White's formative influences, Don Marquis's Archy and Mehitabel, is uniquely qualified to write what is a biography of Charlotte's Web as much as it's a biography of White. White's childhood fascination with the world's smaller denizens and his literary career, including his storied history at The New Yorker, are traced by Sims to their climax in the germination of the plot for Charlotte's Web. Like Beatrix Potter, whose children's stories about anthropomorphized animals were written a half-century before, White consciously avoided moralizing and instead attempted naturalistic faithfulness. Although his children's books were extremely successful and tourists flocked unbidden to his Maine farm each year for his birthday, he longed for solitude throughout his life and felt the greatest connection with animals; Sims successfully argues that Charlotte's Web unintentionally became a 'summary of what it felt like to be E.B. White.' VERDICT: Scholars of children's literature as well as fans—child and grown-up alike—of either White generally or Charlotte's Web in particular will enjoy this biblio-biography."
—Megan Hodge, LIBRARY JOURNAL
"I love the idea. It's by a writer I like named Michael Sims. It goes through the life of E. B. White as a naturalist. And it actually goes back into his notebooks and looks at the way he researched spiders to work out the life of Charlotte, and looks at the way he studied the natural world around the farm. . . . And it is really a lovely book."
—Pulitzer-winning science writer Deborah Blum, on NPR'S "SCIENCE FRIDAY," recommending the book as one of surprising interest to nature and science fans
"Tells the story of a shy author who 'felt for animals a kinship he never felt for people,' and who, at 50, drew upon childhood memories of a stable in Mount Vernon, New York, to spin the iconic story of a spider who saved a pig."
—Megan O'Grady, VOGUE