Barbara Herkert is the author of the new children's picture book A Boy, A Mouse, and a Spider: The Story of E.B. White. She also has written Mary Cassatt: Extraordinary Impressionist Painter and Sewing Stories. She lives in Oregon.
Q: Why did you decide to write a children's picture book about E.B. White, and have you always been a fan of his work?
A: I have always loved E.B. White’s work. When I started researching his life, I fell in love even more. The fact that he battled shyness and found security through writing resonated with me. I was the same way as a child.
I remember first discovering E.B. White when my teacher read Charlotte’s Web aloud in class. The words captivated me, and I checked the book out of the library soon after. I read it, returned it, and checked it out again. I felt like I was reading about myself through Fern.
Q: How did you research his life, and did you learn anything that especially surprised you?
A: I started by reading everything I could get me hands on: two excellent biographies by Michael Sims and Scott Elledge, as well as E.B. White’s essays and letters and articles.
One thing that I learned that surprised me was that I was so much like him growing up. I was small and shy and related more to animals than people. I found peace and security in nature and in writing.
Q: How familiar do you think your audience needs to be with Stuart Little and Charlotte's Web before coming to your book?
A: I think my book is a great way to introduce a younger audience to Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web, even if they haven’t yet read the books. My hope is that their curiosity will lead to a first reading of E.B. White’s amazing classics, and that they will be encouraged to write and to dream.
Q: What do you think Lauren Castillo's illustrations added to the book?
A: I am so fortunate to have Lauren as the illustrator of this book. She added depth and warmth to the words. The abundant details in each illustration are such fun when reading the book to a younger crowd. She took great pains in making sure her illustrations were accurate. Her glowing masterpieces are positively radiant.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: More biographies for children! I love everything about this genre—the research, uncovering those gems that will appeal to children, contacting experts, and travel.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I hope to share with children that they are capable of great things, even if they face tremendous obstacles. The power of dreams is within us all.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb