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Who is E. B. White?

By J. Beam
Updated May 23, 2024
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E. B. White is one of America’s most celebrated writers and authors. He is known for many works, not the least of which are his award-winning children’s books Stuart Little, Charlotte’s Web, and The Trumpet of the Swan. Before E. B. White became a celebrated children’s author, he was a highly regarded writer for The New Yorker.

E. B. White was born Elwyn Brooks White on 11 July 1899 in Mount Vernon, New York. He attended Cornell University, and he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1921. It was at Cornell that E. B. White studied under a professor by the name of William Strunk, Jr., who is the original author of the well-known English language usage reference book, Elements of Style. E. B. White revised the original 1918 version in 1959. Today, Strunk and White’s Elements of Style is one of the most highly regarded reference books for writers and is often required reading for composition classes.

As a celebrated writer, E. B. White first lent his style to children’s books in the late 1930s. His first book, Stuart Little, along with his second, Charlotte’s Web, jointly won the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal in 1970. Both books have since been adapted into screenplays for children’s movies. The animated classic Charlotte’s Web first appeared in 1973 and was reborn as a live action film starring Dakota Fanning as Fern and featuring Julia Roberts as the voice of Charlotte. The film debuted in theatres during Christmas of 2006.

With a writing career that spanned over six decades, E. B. White won a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963 and a special Pulitzer Prize in 1978, in addition to the other awards that his writing received. After the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, one particular passage from E. B. White’s 1948 essay “Here is New York” was frequently cited, because he wrote of New York’s vulnerability at the beginning of the nuclear age. White’s essay contained prose that so closely described the terrorist attacks more than 50 years before they would occur that to some it was tragically poetic, and to others prophetic. E. B. White died on 1 October 1985 after having suffered years with Alzheimer’s. He left behind a son, Joel, and the written collections of his life’s work, many of which continue to thrill readers to this day.

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Discussion Comments
By WaterHopper — On Nov 19, 2010

@oceanswimmer: E.B. Brooks’ father, Samuel Tilly White, was a piano manufacturer. He had 2 brothers and 3 sisters.

Brooks was offered a teaching job at the University of Minnesota but declined his offer because he dreamed of being a writer. In 1929, he married New Yorker editor Katharine Sergeant Angell. They had one son together.

In Brooklin, Maine, the garden at the Friend Public Library was done in memory of E.B. White. He and his wife, Katharine, lived close to the library. Katharine was an avid gardener. He donated the two original pictures of Stuart Williams (by Garth Williams) to the library.

The librarian at the Friend library also had books that were signed personally by E.B. White.

By christym — On Nov 19, 2010

@oceanswimmer: I hope the following information helps you out. When E.B. White was in school, he was constantly worried about having to do the mandatory poetry recital. He hated public speaking. He was usually fortunate because the class had to do their recitals in alphabetical order and often times the term was over before they got to the W’s.

On the occasions that White won awards and asked to give a speech, he would write the speech and let someone else read it.

He also wrote for the Cornell University newspaper, where he attended college. He won a $600 scholarship there for his good test scores.

By OceanSwimmer — On Nov 19, 2010

I'm looking for a little more detailed information about E.B. Brooks for my Literature class. Does anyone have any info to share?

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