STARRED REVIEW
October 24, 2017

A young E.B. White’s inspiration

By Barbara Herkert, illustrated by Lauren Castillo

With precise, poetic language and rich colors, author Barbara Herkert and illustrator Lauren Castillo bring to life the legendary author E.B. White.

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With precise, poetic language and rich colors, author Barbara Herkert and illustrator Lauren Castillo bring to life the legendary author E.B. White.

Readers first meet young Elwyn White at home, sick in bed. It is here he makes a mouse for a friend, eventually carrying him to the family’s horse barn. Young Elwyn loves animals. Herkert plants the seeds in these childhood moments for the famous children’s books Elwyn, who later becomes “Andy,” grows up to write: We see him as a boy, sitting in the barn with his friend, the mouse, staring up a spider’s “masterpiece” of a web.

Herkert spends most of the first half of the book focused on White as a child. He dreaded school yet learned to love writing. With vivid imagery and pleasing alliteration, she captures his idyllic childhood and budding love for language: “As Elwyn grew, he surveyed the summer stars. . . . He jotted his reflections in a journal.” In college, he begins his writing career in earnest, and soon after that is inspired to write Stuart Little while dreaming on a train ride. The last part of the book gives a fine-tune focus to his life with his wife and family at their home in Maine. Here, he writes Charlotte’s Web. Just as in his childhood, he “basked in the seasons, the peace of the barn, the beauty of the world.”

Castillo’s thickly outlined, textured mixed-media illustrations communicate much warmth, with deep reds and oranges and intimate pastoral scenes, whether it’s young Elwyn with his animal friends or elderly Andy in his barn, mesmerized by a spider in her web. In this beautiful spread, we see the silhouette of a pig pointing right to Andy and the spider, with the land, water and a setting sun right behind him.

Inspiring.

 

Julie Danielson features authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children’s literature blog.

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A Boy, a Mouse, and a Spider

A Boy, a Mouse, and a Spider

By Barbara Herkert, illustrated by Lauren Castillo
Holt
ISBN 9781627792455

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