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Probably the most exciting article ever published [in The Horn Book], announced that magazine's publicity release when, in 1982, Peter Neumeyer wrote his two-part series on the evolution of E. B. White's Charlotte's Web from manuscript to finished book.
Charlotte's Web may be America's best-loved children's book today, seamless in plot, poignant in its delineation of characters who will live in American children's literature forever, and written with a seeming ease and fluency that make the reading as engrossing as it is effortless.
In fact, E. B. White labored tirelessly over eight manuscript drafts, researched thoroughly the habits of spiders, and meditated on the habits of pigs. En route, he corresponded with editors, filmmakers, and friends, as well as fulfilling his role as a distinguished writer for The New Yorker.
The Annotated Charlotte's Web picks up these threads, opens the door to the creator's workshop, and allows the reader to glance over the shoulder of one of the most exacting and fastidious American writers, watching as he forms his masterpiece.
The Annotated Charlotte's Web sheds light on the book's origins, its allusions, its deliberate construction, as well as on the life of its sometimes elusive author. It sets the novel in the context of other books of its type.
Included are information from White's eight manuscript drafts, cross-references to other writings by E. B. White, letters between White and his editors, documents from the critical reception of Charlotte's Web, and general literary-cultural commentary tying the book to its traditions.
For over forty years, this great American novel has thrived without annotation. Now, however, these selected insights can bring us closer to the book's author, enrich our reading of the book, and shed a measure of light on the artistic process itself.