Zac McDorrMy one big role in a high school play was that of Homer Zuckerman, the man who held poor Wilbur’s future in his hands, in “Charlotte’s Web.” Bacon and ham, or a life of leisure in the manure pile?

I’m sure the audience breathlessly waited to learn the famous pig’s fate. It’s a fun school memory, and my time in the spotlight was all thanks to E.B. White, the Maine resident who wrote one of the most popular children’s books of all time.

Elwyn Brooks White was born in New York, and was the grandson of famous painter William Hart, of the Hudson River School. His father was in the piano business. White hated the name Elwyn, which is why we know him by his initials.

After graduating from Cornell, E.B. White became a reporter and copywriter. He applied for work with the New Yorker when it was founded in 1925, and they offered him a position as a staff writer.

As an introvert, however, White would only agree to spend one day a week at the office. When faced with office visitors and meetings, White was known to exit the situation via the fire escape. He continued to publish in the New Yorker for six decades.

White is well known in writer circles for his book, “The Elements of Style,” a book about proper writing techniques. He is better known to the public for the three children’s books he published. The first, “Stuart Little,” was written for his niece in 1945. At first it wasn’t well received, but today is a classic.

Next came the Newberry Award-winning “Charlotte’s Web,” in 1952. White wrote the book at his 44-acre saltwater farm in Brooklin, Maine, which provided the inspiration for Zuckerman’s farm. He got the idea for the story when he saw a spider spinning a web in his barn.

The book was a huge hit that is still popular more than 60 years later. The first film version followed in 1973, and is considered possibly the best non-Disney animated picture.

Finally, White published “Trumpet of the Swan” in 1970. It would be his last children’s book. White passed away at home in 1985.

To hear E.B. White’s voice and enjoy a great piece of Maine nostalgia, go to YouTube and look for “A Maine Lobsterman by E.B. White, 1954.”


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