9 Charming Facts About E.B. White’s Stuart Little

HarperCollins Publishers
HarperCollins Publishers

The charming tale of a tiny mouse doing his best to live a normal, human life in the Little family has captivated readers young and old for the past 75 years. Find out more about Stuart Little, the novel that jumpstarted E.B. White’s career as a children’s author and caused a little unease in the publishing world on its way to shelves across the United States.

1. Stuart Little was E.B. White’s first children’s book.

e.b. white
Cornell University Press, YouTube

In the late 1920s, Elwyn Brooks White rose to renown for his work as a writer and editor at The New Yorker. He also teamed up with James Thurber on a satirical collection of essays called Is Sex Necessary? Or, Why You Feel the Way You Do. It wasn’t until 1945 that White published Stuart Little, his first (but not last) novel for young readers. He’d go on to write Charlotte’s Web and The Trumpet of the Swan, solidifying his reputation as one of America’s greatest 20th-century children’s authors.

2. Garth Williams illustrated the original edition of Stuart Little.

Stuart Little was also the first children’s book illustrated by Garth Williams, a former aspiring New Yorker cartoonist who would later provide the artwork for Charlotte’s Web, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series, George Selden’s The Cricket in Times Square and its sequels, and several books by Margaret Wise Brown (though not her most famous story, Goodnight Moon). White’s publisher had already tapped Williams to illustrate Stuart Little before she even received the manuscript—when she did, it came with a note from White saying “Try Garth Williams.”

3. E.B. White got the idea for Stuart Little from a dream.

Around the same time White joined The New Yorker, he dozed off on a train ride and “dreamed of a small character who had the features of a mouse, was nicely dressed, courageous, and questing.” The trumpet-playing swan and the eloquent barn spider from his other books were conscious inventions, though. White said Stuart Little was “the only fictional figure ever to have honored and disturbed [his] sleep.”

4. Dr. Seuss was sort of involved in encouraging E.B. White to write children’s books.

In a November 1938 essay for Harper’s magazine, White mentioned the only current children’s book he really liked was The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins by Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel), and contemplated how fun and easy it would be to write for children. Geisel shared the essay with the New York Public Library’s children’s librarian, Anne Carroll Moore, who bombarded White with letters encouraging him to try it. White told her he had, in fact, already started.

5. Anne Carroll Moore then tried to prevent Stuart Little from being published.

A woman browses the shelves at the New York Public Library.
Anne Carroll Moor wielded great influence over the children's literature at the New York Public Library.
ponafotkas, Flickr // cc by 2.0

In 1945, White finally finished a draft of Stuart Little and sent it to Ursula Nordstrom, the director of Harper’s Department of Books for Boys and Girls. Nordstrom passed along an advance copy to Moore, who did little to hide her loathing for a story that spliced together fact and fantasy in what she believed was a distasteful way that would confuse children and ruin White’s reputation. She urged Nordstrom not to publish it, sent E.B. White a 14-page letter detailing her criticisms, and proclaimed she “never was so disappointed in a book in [her] life.” It's believed Moore used her influence to keep the tale off the shelves of the New York Public Library—and libraries around the country.

6. Not all the critics loved Stuart Little.

Fortunately for fans of anthropomorphic mice, Nordstrom ignored Moore’s melodramatic warning and published the novel anyway. Plenty of people enjoyed White’s somewhat strange foray into children’s stories, but Moore wasn’t the only disappointed reader. The New York Times book critic Malcolm Cowley, for one, didn’t think White had created a classic by any means.

“If I also found it a little disappointing, perhaps that is because I had been expecting that E. B. White would write nothing less than a children's classic,” he wrote in his review. “Mr. White has a tendency to write amusing scenes instead of telling a story.”

The New Yorker’s Edmund Wilson also found it amusing, but was “disappointed that [White] didn’t develop the theme more in the manner of Kafka.”

7. It’s not totally clear if Stuart Little is actually a mouse.

In the 1999 film adaptation of Stuart Little (with a screenplay co-written by M. Night Shyamalan, by the way), there’s no denying the titular character is a mouse—not only does he look like a furry white mouse that came straight from a laboratory experiment, but he also refers to himself as a mouse. The book, on the other hand, isn’t quite so clear. The story opens with the birth of Stuart, whom White calls a “baby” who “looked very much like a mouse in every way,” and the rest of the book contains references to Stuart as a “boy,” a “man,” and a “person.” In other words, while Stuart is frequently compared to a mouse, White never actually comes right out and says he is a mouse.

8. E.B. White slightly altered the book's first sentence for later editions of Stuart Little.

In the original edition of Stuart Little, White’s first sentence begins, “When Mrs. Frederick C. Little’s second son was born …” implying Mrs. Little literally gave birth to a mouse (or mousy creature). After reading it, New Yorker co-founder Harold Ross reportedly told White he should’ve had the Littles adopt Stuart instead—possibly because the idea of a human woman giving birth to a rodent or rodent-like being seemed a little too off-putting for the time. White didn’t go so far as to add an entire adoption scene in later printings of his novel, but he did tweak one tiny verb to make the circumstances of Stuart’s birth a little less explicit: If you pick up a copy of Stuart Little today, you’ll notice Mrs. Frederick C. Little's second son “arrived.” The 1999 film, however, did add an entire adoption scene. In it, the Littles visit an orphanage and end up bringing home a teenaged Stuart.

9. A fifth-grader in Illinois came up with a much happier ending for Stuart Little.

Stuart Little ends on a somewhat hopeful, open-ended note, with Stuart speeding off in his little car in search of Margalo, the songbird who had fled to avoid being eaten by the Littles’ cat, Snowball. “The way seemed long,” White writes, but “he somehow felt he was headed in the right direction.” In 1946, for a school assignment, a fifth-grader in Illinois envisaged a much less melancholy ending for the young mouse-man and his avian companion. In hers, Stuart runs into Margalo at a gas station and offers the owner “a whole ten dollars” for his bird. He agrees, and the pair returns to New York where they get married and raise “a family of half mice and half birds.” It’s unclear if half their children were mice and the other half were birds, or if all the children were half-mouse, half-bird.

10 Wireless Chargers Designed to Make Life Easier

La Lucia/Moshi
La Lucia/Moshi

While our smart devices and gadgets are necessary in our everyday life, the worst part is the clumsy collection of cords and chargers that go along with them. Thankfully, there are more streamlined ways to keep your phone, AirPods, Apple Watch, and other electronics powered-up. Check out these 10 wireless chargers that are designed to make your life convenient and connected.

1. Otto Q Wireless Fast Charging Pad; $40

Otto Q Wireless Fast Charging Pad

Touted as one of the world's fastest chargers, this wireless model from Moshi is ideal for anyone looking to power-up their phone or AirPods in a hurry. It sports a soft, cushioned design and features a proprietary Q-coil module that allows it to charge through a case as thick as 5mm.

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2. Gotek Wireless Charging Music Station; $57

Gotek Wireless Charging Music Station
Rego Tech

Consolidate your bedside table with this clock, Bluetooth 5.0 speaker, and wireless charger, all in one. It comes with a built-in radio and glossy LED display with three levels of brightness to suit your style.

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3. BentoStack PowerHub 5000; $100 (37 percent off)

BentoStack PowerHub 5000

This compact Apple accessory organizer will wirelessly charge, port, and store your device accessories in one compact hub. It stacks to look neat and keep you from losing another small piece of equipment.

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4. Porto Q 5K Portable Battery with Built-in Wireless Charger; $85

Porto Q 5K Portable Battery with Built-in Wireless Charger

This wireless charger doubles as a portable battery, so when your charge dies, the backup battery will double your device’s life. Your friends will love being able to borrow a charge, too, with the easy, non-slip hook-up.

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5. 4-in-1 Versatile Wireless Charger; $41 (31 percent off)

4-in-1 Versatile Wireless Charger
La Lucia

Put all of those tangled cords to rest with this single, temperature-controlled charging stand that can work on four devices at once. It even has a built-in safeguard to protect against overcharging.

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6. GRAVITIS™ Wireless Car Charger; $20 (31 percent off)

GRAVITIS™ Wireless Car Charger

If you need to charge your phone while also using it as a GPS, this wireless device hooks right into the car’s air vent for safe visibility. Your device will be fully charged within two to three hours, making it perfect for road trips.

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7. Futura X Wireless 15W Fast Charging Pad; $35 (30 percent off)

Futura X Wireless 15W Fast Charging Pad

This incredibly thin, tiny charger is designed for anyone looking to declutter their desk or nightstand. Using a USB-C cord for a power source, this wireless charger features a built-in cooling system and is simple to set up—once plugged in, you just have to rest your phone on top to get it working.

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8. Apple Watch Wireless Charger Keychain; $20 (59 percent off)

Apple Watch Wireless Charger Keychain
Go Gadgets

This Apple Watch charger is all about convenience on the go. Simply attach the charger to your keys or backpack and wrap your Apple Watch around its magnetic center ring. The whole thing is small enough to be easily carried with you wherever you're traveling, whether you're commuting or out on a day trip.

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9. Wireless Charger with 30W Power Delivery & 18W Fast Charger Ports; $55 (38 percent off)

Wireless Charger from TechSmarter

Fuel up to three devices at once, including a laptop, with this single unit. It can wirelessly charge or hook up to USB and USB-C to consolidate your charging station.

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10. FurniQi Bamboo Wireless Charging Side Table; $150 (24 percent off)

FurniQi Bamboo Wireless Charging Side Table

This bamboo table is actually a wireless charger—all you have to do is set your device down on the designated charging spot and you're good to go. Easy to construct and completely discreet, this is a novel way to charge your device while entertaining guests or just enjoying your morning coffee.

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11 Facts About Henry David Thoreau

By Benjamin D. Maxham, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
By Benjamin D. Maxham, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

In his book Walden, Henry David Thoreau declared his love of nature, simplicity, and independence. Although most people know about Thoreau’s time in Walden Woods, as well as his Transcendentalism, abolitionist views, and writing on civil disobedience, there’s a lot more to uncover about him. Here are some things you might not have known about Henry David Thoreau, who was born on July 12, 1817.

1. You're probably mispronouncing Henry David Thoreau's name.

Born in Concord, Massachusetts in 1817, David Henry Thoreau switched his first and middle names after graduating from Harvard. His legal name, though, was always David Henry. Although most people today pronounce Thoreau’s surname with the emphasis on the second syllable, he most likely pronounced it “THOR-oh.” Ralph Waldo Emerson’s son, Edward, wrote that the accent in Thoreau’s name was on the first syllable, and other friends called him “Mr. Thorough.”

2. Henry David Thoreau invented a machine to improve pencils.

In the 1820s, Thoreau’s father started manufacturing black-lead pencils. Between teaching students, surveying land, and working as a handyman, Thoreau made money by working for his family’s pencil business. After researching German techniques for making pencils, he invented a grinding machine that made better quality plumbago (a mixture of the lead, graphite, and clay inside a pencil). After his father died, Thoreau ran the family’s pencil company.

3. Henry David Thoreau accidentally burned hundreds of acres of woods.

In 1844, a year before moving into a house in Walden Woods, the 26-year-old Thoreau was cooking fish he had caught with a friend in the woods outside Concord. The grass around the fire ignited, and the flames burned between 100 and 300 acres of land, thanks to strong winds. Even years later, his neighbors disparagingly called him a rascal and a woods burner. In an 1850 journal entry, Thoreau described how the earth was “uncommonly dry”—there hadn’t been much rain—and how the fire “spread rapidly.” Although he initially felt guilty, he wrote that he soon realized that fire is natural, and lightning could have sparked a fire in the woods just as easily as his cooking accident did.

4. Henry David Thoreau's house at Walden Pond later became a pigsty.

After Thoreau left the home he built in Walden Woods in 1847, the structure went through multiple iterations. He sold the house to Emerson (it was on land that Emerson already owned), and Emerson sold it to his gardener. The gardener never moved in, so the house was empty until a farmer named James Clark bought it in 1849. Clark moved it to his nearby farm and used it to store grain. In 1868, the roof of the building was removed from the base and used to cover a pigsty. In 1875, the rest of the structure was used as a shed before its timber was used to fix Clark’s barn. Today, you can see replicas of Thoreau’s house near Walden Pond in Massachusetts.

5. Henry David Thoreau and his brother both fell in love with the same woman.

In 1839, Thoreau wrote in his journal about how he fell in love with Ellen Sewall, an 18-year-old from Cape Cod. In 1840, Thoreau’s older brother John proposed marriage to Sewall but was rejected. So, like any good brother, Thoreau wrote a letter to Sewall, proposing that she marry him instead. Sewall rejected him too, probably due to her family disapproving of the Thoreau family’s liberal views on Christianity.

Despite the aforementioned marriage proposal, some historians and biographers speculate that Thoreau was gay. He never married, reportedly preferred celibacy, and his journals reveal references to male bodies but no female ones.

6. Despite popular misconception, Henry David Thoreau wasn't a loner.

Historians have debunked the misconception that Thoreau was a selfish hermit who lived alone so he could stay away from other people. Rather than being a loner, Thoreau was an individualist who was close to his family members and lived with Emerson’s family (on and off) for years. To build his cabin in the woods, he got help from his friends including Emerson and Bronson Alcott, the father of Louisa May Alcott. During his stay in the woods, he frequently entertained guests, visited friends, and walked to the (nearby) town of Concord. At his funeral at Concord’s First Parish Church, a large group of friends attended to mourn and celebrate his life.

7. Henry David Thoreau was a minimalist.

Long before tiny houses were trendy, Thoreau wrote about the benefits of living a simple, minimalist lifestyle. In Walden, he wrote about giving up the luxuries of everyday life in order to quiet the mind and have time for thinking. “My greatest skill has been to want but little,” he wrote. Thoreau also related his love of simplicity to the craft of writing: “It is the fault of some excellent writers ... that they express themselves with too great fullness and detail. They give the most faithful, natural, and lifelike account of their sensations, mental and physical, but they lack moderation and sententiousness.”

8. Henry David Thoreau took copious notes.

Although he was a minimalist, Thoreau wrote an abundance of notes and ideas in his journals, essays, and letters. He jotted down his observations of nature, writing in detail about everything from how plant seeds spread across the land to the changing temperature of Walden Pond to animal behavior. In addition to his plethora of notes and environmental data, Thoreau also collected hundreds of plant specimens and birds’ eggs.

9. Henry David Thoreau was praised for his originality.

In 1862, newspapers widely reported the news of Thoreau’s death. Obituaries for the 44-year-old writer appeared in The Boston Transcript, The Boston Daily Advertiser, The Liberator, The Boston Journal, The New-York Daily Tribune, and The Salem Observer. The obituaries describe Thoreau as an “eccentric author” and “one of the most original thinkers our country has produced.”

10. Henry David Thoreau donated his collections to the Boston Society of Natural History.

After Thoreau’s death, the Boston Society of Natural History got a huge gift. Thoreau, a member, gave the society his collections of plants, Indian antiquities, and birds’ eggs and nests. The plants were pressed and numbered—there were more than 1000 species—and the Native American antiquities included stone weapons that Thoreau had found while walking in Concord.

11. Don Henley of the Eagles is a huge fan of Henry David Thoreau.

As a big fan of both Thoreau and Transcendentalism, musician Don Henley of the Eagles started The Walden Woods Project in 1990 to stop 68 acres of Walden Woods from being turned into offices and condominiums. The project succeeded in saving the woods, and today The Walden Woods Project is a nonprofit organization that conserves Walden Woods, preserves Thoreau’s legacy, and manages an archive of Thoreau’s books, maps, letters, and manuscripts. In an interview with Preservation Magazine, Henley described the importance of preserving Walden Woods: “The pond and the woods that inspired the writing of Walden are historically significant not only because they were the setting for a great American classic, but also because Walden Woods was Henry David Thoreau's living laboratory, where he formulated his theory of forest succession, a precursor to contemporary ecological science.”

This story has been updated for 2020.