Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Happy Birthday E.B. White

It's the birthday today of the man who gave us Charlotte's Web and The Elements of Style. More personally for me, it's the birthday of the man who taught my daughters to read, and who taught me to write.

Charlotte's Web was how I introduced my daughters to "chapter books", as they called them, when I could no longer stand reading 20 2o-page books in a row as soon as I felt they no longer required pictures to hold their interest during our marathon reading sessions. They loved Trumpet of the Swan also (and both eventually forgave Mr. White for Stuart Little, which they hated) but it was their love for Wilbur that help motivate them to teach themselves to read at an early age. They literally wore out those first chapter books, and the tattered ones remain on their bookshelves alongside their worn, but less tattered, replacements, cherished souvenirs of that magical time when printed words first came alive for them.

E. B. White did not have a place on our bookshelves when I was growing up, unfortunately. I discovered Mr. White as the other half of Strunk & White, and I've been through as many copies of The Elements of Style as my daughters have of Charlotte's Web. And, come to think of it, TEoS has much of the same sense of wonder and beauty that made CW such a joy to read aloud.

How to honor the memory of the man who gave us Wilbur and Charlotte? I guess the least I could do is to refrain from eating pork today.


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