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Juvenile Books Author of the Month
E.B. White
E.B. White
11 July 1899 -- 1 October 1985

Elwyn Brooks White was born on Julyy 11, 1899 in Mount Vernon, New York to Samuel Tilly and Jessie (Hart White. E.B. was the youngest of a large family that included three brothers (Marion Robertson, Albert Hunt, and Stanley Hart) and two sisters (Calra Frances and Lillian). There was also another sister who died in infancy, but was rarely spoken about by E.B.'s parents.

Samuel Tilly White was the son of a carpenter and the grandson of a contractor. He had to quit school at the age of 13 to go to work. He found a job as a "bundle boy" who wrapped packages for the piano firm of Horace Waters and Company in Manhattan. Sam took an opportunity to learn the trade of manufacturing while he was there. he learned about bookkeeping and hot wo play the piano. He used these skills to climb the professional ladder.

As a result of Samuel Tilly White's career, the White home was always well supplied with instruments from a grand piano to banjos and drums. The only problem was that the family seemed to lack the talent required to play the available instruments even with the assistance of some much needed lessons. E.B. was particularly fond of the piano and had some experience with the mandolin and the cello.

In 1904, it was time for little E.B. White to start kindergarten, which was not something that he was looking forward to. In fact, he was so scared that he went kicking and screaming the first day. Fortunately, his fear did not last. He attended Public School 2 from kindergarten to grade 8. He was a diligent student, who studied more out of fear of falling behind than anything else.

White published his first his first story when he was only 12 years old. In 1911, St. Nicholas Magazine, a popular magazine for young readers, offered a silver badge for anyone sending in a story worthy of publication. White sent in a story about walking in the woods in wintertime. The editors of the magazine liked the story, and "A Winter Walk" appeared in the June issue.

White went on to attend Mount Vernon High School in 1913. He loved his Latin classes. His performance in the rest of his classes was pretty good as well because when he graduated in 1917, he was awarded two scholarships totalling $1000. This was a particularly large sum considering the fact that his intended school, Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, had a tuition of only $100 a year. Before starting classes at the university in 1918, White was a member of the Army with the rank of private.

White worked on the Cornell Daily Sun while he was attending the university. He was elected editor-in-chief at the end of his junior year. He was also the president of his fraternity and was elected to the senior honorary society, Quill and Dagger. White majored in English because he was not sure what else to do and he did have a talent for writing. His interest in the daily paper seemed obvious considering his talent.

Following his graduation from Cornell in 1921, White headed to New York City. The first job he got was with the United Press,l an organization similar to and a major rival for the Associated Press. He did not stay with the United Press for long, though. In December of the same year, he found a position in a public relations firm. It was not a job that he found rewarding.

White joined the American Legion News Service in January of 1922, which proved to be another unsuccessful choice. He was unhappy with the way thing were turning out so he quit and headed out West with a friend. In Seattle, he landed a position with the Seattle Times. he covered all sorts of news from the local police beat to interviewing a representative from the Japanese Embassy.

In June of 1923, White was let go from the Seattle Times. He decided to head up north and boarded the S.S. Buford bound for Alaska. He found a job on board. "Working in a ship is a far better life than sailing in one as a passenger. Alaska, the sea, and the ship herself became real to me as soon as I was employed." [3] He served as a waiter in the saloon from 8 PM to 6 AM.

That fall, White returned to his parent's home in Mount Vernon. He found a position with an advertising firm called Seaman Inc. and Newmark Inc. as a production assistant and an advertising copywriter.

The appeal of Manhattan brought White there in November of 1925. He left his job at the advertising firm behind and was now unemployed for a period. That all changed when he bought a first issue at the local newstand of the New Yorker. White liked the format so much he decided to start submitting entries to the magazine, which were often published in subsequent editions. As time passed, he became a part-time employee of the magazine. Gradually the position increased to a full-time position.

The New Yorker was constantly teetering on the edge of financial ruin. Over time, more journalists joined the magazine.

One of the editors of the New Yorker was Katherine Angell, who had joined the magazine in 1925. Over the years, Katherine and White grew closer and fell in love. They were married on November 13, 1929. Katherine had two children from a previous marriage, but the White family soon had an addition. The couple had a son on December 21, 1930. He was named Joel McCoun White.

In 1938, White and his family moved to a farm in North Brooklin, Maine. White maintained close ties with the New Yorker. He also started contributing a monthly column entitled "One Man's Meat" to Harper's magazine. It was a column he continued to write until 1943.

His writing career also took off. He had already published two books in 1929. In 1938, he published a book of poetry called The Fox and the Peacock. All three of these books were written for an adult audience.

White began concentrating on a new target audience for his books in 1939. That was the year he started writing Stuart Little. "I will have to break down and confess to you that Stuart Little appeared to me in a dream, all complete, with his hat, his cane, and his brisk manner." [3] Stuart Little was not completed and published until 1945.

The Whites returned to New York from Maine in 1941. The start of World War II in December, 1941 had drastically reduced the staff of the New Yorker, and the Whites offered to take over some of the resulting work overflow.

The White family returned to Maine in 1943. With their return, E.B. decided to make a number of changes in his life. He quit the column he was writing for Harper's magazine. He was just not proud of the articles he was producing. The monthly deadline was too constrciting for him. He concentrated on the editorial work he continued to do for the New Yorker and on working the family farm.

Charlotte's Web was published in 1952. All of White's juvenile books were written on his farm in Maine. "I like animals and my barn is a very pleasant place to be, at all hours. One day when I was on my way to feed the pig, I began feeling sorry for the pig because, like most pigs, he was doomed to die. This made me sad. So, I started thinking of ways to save a pig's life. I had been watching a big, grey spider at her work and was impressed by how clever she was weaving. Gradually, I worked the spider into the story...a story of friendship and salvation on a farm." [3]

When a college friend sent White a copy of the booklet they had used for Professor William Strunk, Jr.'s writing classes at Cornell, it brought back memories. It also gave White an idea. He had learned so much about rules for good writing from his late teacher that he wanted to show others, as the teacher had, how to write crisply and clearly. White took the booklet, carefully updated it, and added a few tips of his own. it was published in 1959. The book, Elements of Style by Strunk and White, quickly became a bestseller.

John F. Kennedy named White as one of thirty-eight Americans to receive the Presidetntial Medal of Freedom in 1963. The medal is the highest honor a civilian can receive in times of peace.

In 1966, Stuart Little was adapted for television by NBC. White was given a draft of the script to edit, but he made very few changes. Months later, he received a letter from the company explaining that the original script with his suggestions had been lost. A new script was made and included with the letter. White received the letter after filming on the adaptation had been completed. White was not happy with the resulting project.

The Trumpet of the Swan was published in 1970.

Katherine had a heart attack in 1975. White wrote her, "....This made me realize more than anything else ever has how much I love you and how little life would mean to me were you not here."[3] Unfortunately, Katherine died two years later.

In 1978, White was awarded a Pulitzer Prize Committee special citation for the full body of his work.

White died on October 1, 1985 from Alzheimer's Disease on his farmin North Brooklin, Maine.

Information for this bio raphy was taken from:
1) Tracy Chevalier (ed.). Twentieth Century Children's Writers; Saint James Press: Chicago, 1989.
2) David R. Collins. To the Point: A Story About E.B. White; Carolrhode Books, Inc.: Minneapolis, Minn., 1989.
3) Anne Commire (ed.). Contemporary Authors, #29; Gale Research Company: Detroit, Mich., 1982.
4) Anne Commire (ed.). Contemporary Authors, #44; Gale Research Company: Detroit, Mich., 1986.
5) The E.B. White Home Page; http://www.winsor.edu/library2/ebwhite.htm.
6) E(lwyn) B(rooks) White (1899-1985); http://www.kirjsato.sci.fi/ebwhite.htm.
7) Beverly Gherman. E.B. White: Some Writer!; Beech Tree Paperback Book: New York, 1992.
8) Susan Jenson. Authors: E.B.White -- Suite101.com; http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/classic_literature/33400.

J-White/J-P-WHI Charlotte's Web (1952) -- The story of Wilbur the pig and how, through his friendship with Charlotte the spider, he becomes famous and learns about life and death.

J-P-WHI/J-LPeD-WHI Stuart Little (1945) -- The adventures of the debonaire mouse Stuart Little as he sets out in the world to seek out his dearest friend, a little bird who stayed in his family's garden.

J-WHI The Trumpet of the Swan (1970) -- Knowing how to read and write is not enough for Louis, a voiceless trumpeter swan. His determination to learn how to play a stolen trumpet takes him far from his wilderness home.

Videos Based on White's Works
J-VID-Charlotte's Charlotte's Web (1991) -- The story of Wilbur the pig and how, through his friendship with Charlotte the spider, he becomes famous and learns about life and death.

J-VID-Stuart Stuart Little (1999) -- The adventures of the debonaire mouse Stuart Little as he sets out in the world to seek out his dearest friend, a little bird who stayed in his family's garden.

The E.B. White Home Page (http://.www.winsor.edi/library2/ebwhite.htm) -- This site includes biographical information about E.B. White and his wife, Katherine. It also takes a look at some of his major works in the field of children's literature.

E(lywn) B(rooks) White (1899-1985) (http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/ebwhite.htm) -- This site includes a brief biography and a list of works for E.B. White.

Jenson, Sudan. Classic Authors: E.B. White -- Suite101.com (http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/classic_literature/33400) -- A brief biography of this classic author of children's literature and essays are proided by the author. 

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