By Michael Sims
Walker & Company, $16.00, 307 pages
Classic children’s literature is that which is timeless and places its characters in a story filled with life lessons for any generation. Charlotte’s Web became one such classic, teaching readers about life and death and cycles of nature. Michael Sims tells the story of its gentle-natured author, E.B. White, or Andy, as he was known in life. White based his story on real life experiences in nature. Thus we are told that Wilbur, the pig, Charlotte, the spider, and Templeton, the rat, were inspired by actual creatures. So too was the barn based in reality. For the many details about the natural history of spiders throughout Charlotte’s Web we have White’s diligent study of scientific texts to thank. Sims runs through White’s childhood in nature, his explorations of nature in the city during his burgeoning career as a writer, his relationship with and later marriage to fellow New Yorker staff member Katherine, and their time spent split between a farm in Maine and an apartment in New York. Half biography and half description of how White came to write his book, Sim’s charming narrative in The Story of Charlotte’s Web explores how one life was distilled into the pages of a book for all to enjoy.
Reviewed by Michael Barton