A Rainy Day with Some Writer!
I love rainy days for the same reason all readers do—the chance to curl up in a corner with a book, guilt-free. There’s no sunbeam poking me through the window, prodding me outdoors. There’s no nagging reminder to pull weeds or exercise. I can sit still and travel to faraway places or times.
Of course, there’s the pull of what I “should” be doing—laundry, invoicing, spackling that ding in the door—but it’s easier to resist indoor shoulds. It helps to have just made white chocolate macadamia nut cookies, as I have today, and lit a brown candle that smells like a cinnamon roll. And it helps to have a friend in your nook, even if she’d rather be outside, chasing squirrels in the rain.
Most importantly, it helps to have a stack of unusually great books in front of me, the old-fashioned paper kind you can thumb through and flip upside down and, well, actually stack. And these books are not highly but deeply recommended, from within books I already treasure, by writers I love. They’ve been piling up for weeks, and not knowing where to start, I’ve taken bites from the whole buffet. I’m a few pages into Barry Lopez’s Arctic Dreams, Susan Orleans’ The Library Book, Edith Wharton’s short stories, and Mary Oliver’s Upstream, and I’m already hungry for more.
Today, though, I’m going to feast on words that came from or mattered to E.B. White. In prep for last week’s workshop on Stuart Little, I had read his biography (the man’s, not the mouse’s, though the two may differ by only a tail). His story, as beautifully told and illustrated by Melissa Sweet in Some Writer!, re-inspired me to live and write with integrity. It made me wish I could go back in time and be true to myself from the start. Aside from the obvious differences in talent, E.B. and I have just enough in common to make me realize, I could have gone that direction instead.
The two books, one about him and one by him, made me want to hang on to the connection I felt, and develop the inspiration into action: to head “north until the end of my days” like E.B. and Stuart. Isn’t this the effect of all great books, to make us want to learn what the main character learned? As he said himself in 1969, a writer “should tend to lift people up, not lower them down. Writers do not merely reflect and interpret life, they inform and shape life.”
So I had started looking for ways to get a closer look at his world, just like Becky and I do when we’re teaching great books to kids. Unfortunately, boating on a lake in Maine wasn’t feasible, so I ordered what I’m about to curl up with today, three written “ways in” to his life: The New Yorker, a collection of his essays, and a vintage edition of Walden, which he loved so well.
That last one I have already known and loved, but I wanted one printed in the days of E.B. White—the same edition he might have lifted from the table beside his own book nook, next to his own canine friend, by his own flickering firelight.
We’ve had a lot of fun taking kids on multisensory “field trips” through E.B. White’s books! You’ll find plenty of our unique teaching ideas and worksheets in The LitWits Kit for Charlotte’s Web and The LitWits Kit for The Trumpet of the Swan; the kit for Stuart Little will be out this summer.