E.B.White known for writing of stories for children, essays and book for adults did not plan it that way. He wrote because he liked to, unmindful of the audience. Stuart Little is considered one of E.B.White's best. The others being Charlotte's Web and The Trumpet of the Swan.
Do not go looking for the Stuart Little of the movies. E.B.White’s Stuart is a strong, independent young mammal, a mouse of action and grit. White’s philosophy in writing for children runs true in the book as well. Little is sugar coated or tied up neatly with little bows. There are unfinished endings, friends that part forever, leaving home and very real adventures.The intrepid mouse sails boats, drives automobiles, rows canoes and never loses his cool or mind even in the face of certain death.
The detailed line drawings by Garth Williams are a treat.E.B.White when speaking of writing for children felt it was a lot like writing for adults. On being asked by the interviewers George Plimpton and Frank H. Crowther if there was a shifting when writing for children, he replied in the negative.There was he felt no changing of gears while writing for children, but rather it was just as challenging and interesting to write for them.
“Anybody who shifts gears when he writes for children is likely to wind up stripping his gears. But I don’t want to evade your question. There is a difference between writing for children and for adults. I am lucky, though, as I seldom seem to have my audience in mind when I am at work. It is as though they didn’t exist.Anyone who writes down to children is simply wasting his time. You have to write up, not down. Children are demanding. They are the most attentive, curious, eager, observant, sensitive, quick, and generally congenial readers on earth. They accept, almost without question, anything you present them with, as long as it is presented honestly, fearlessly, and clearly. I handed them, against the advice of experts, a mouse-boy, and they accepted it without a quiver. In Charlotte’s Web, I gave them a literate spider, and they took that.Some writers for children deliberately avoid using words they think a child doesn’t know. This emasculates the prose and, I suspect, bores the reader. Children are game for anything. I throw them hard words, and they backhand them over the net. They love words that give them a hard time, provided they are in a context that absorbs their attention. I’m lucky again: my own vocabulary is small, compared to most writers, and I tend to use the short words. So it’s no problem for me to write for children. We have a lot in common.”
Stuart Little is written with this very same philosophy in mind. Stuart's small size never deters him from contributing to the household, be it getting his mother’s ring stuck in the drainpipe or adjusting the keys from within the piano. The Littles –Mr., Mrs and George accept Stuart as their own. Their cat Snowbell though doesn't.
George is shown as someone who loses interest in things fairly quickly. If it is rowing today, it’s something else the next. The author does not shy from showing George or Stuart as characters with oddities and flaws.White shines best in the chapter ‘The Sailboat Race’. His knowledge of sailing and his interest in model boats and their navigation are etched so well even for complete sailing illiterates like me.
White’s description of animals and places bring the neighbourhood to life.
Snowbell had several friends in the neighbourhood.Some of them were house cats, others were store cats. He knew a Maltese cat in the A&P, a white Persian in the apartment next door, a tortoise-shell in the delicatessen, a tiger cat in the basement of the branch library, and a beautiful Angora who had escaped from a cage in the pet shop on Third Avenue and had gone to live a free life of her own in the tool house of the small park near Stuart’s home.
The last sentence makes you wonder whether it’s still a cat that he is talking about!
Stuart then meets the song-bird Margalo. The Little's take in the cold, half-frozen bird and nurse her back to health. Stuart saves her from Snowbell's ill-intentions to eat her and Margalo saves Stuart from being taken away into the sea. Margalo now in good health flies away but comes over to meet Stuart every now and then. On one such trip Stuart warns her that Snowbell has asked his friend to eat her. Margalo flies away forever.
The mouse deeply moved by Margalo’s departure goes out in search of her, with no teary goodbyes. Along the way Stuart meets more characters and behaves quite poorly with a young lady his size, unhappy his well laid plans come to naught. Stuart is who he is, not a comic book hero with all his curls in place . He is a regular mouse who goes about doing the things he needs to do, never letting his size or form stop him from living a full life.
The story is remarkable for the author's observations about the nature of people, and the education system among other things. The book itself aroused many contradictory feelings. Some folks loved it while some librarians thought it unfit for children. White, as always trusted his young readers to capture the essence of the book and hoist their imagination with Stuart. A testimony to the enduring charm of Stuart Little is that it has sold more than four million copies and still counting.