NOVEL: Charlotte’s Web
AUTHOR: E.B. White
YEAR OF PUBLICATION: 1952
December 6th was the fifth annual Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day: http://takeyourchildtoabookstore.org/
In honor of the occasion, it seemed like a good time to write about an old favorite, Charlotte’s Web. I revisited it recently, having remembered that I loved it as a child, but I actually remembered the animated 1973 movie a bit better than the book itself. It’s a story about a little girl named Fern, Wilbur, the runt of a pig she rescued from the ax, and his friend, Charlotte, a spider, who saved his life again.
If you haven’t read it, you have a treat in store for you. If you read it a long time ago, you may appreciate it anew as an adult. Because its story of friendship and love, which does not shy away in the least from the hard realities of life and death, is a gentle introduction for children to these big issues. Because it is beautiful and full of wisdom and humor. And because it is, as much as anything else, a story about words and the power of writing itself. Charlotte saved Wilbur’s life through the words she wove: “SOME PIG,” “TERRIFIC,” “RADIANT,” “HUMBLE.” And after her death, she lived on in his memory, with this tribute which closes the book: “It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.”
The author himself described his own work thus: “All that I ever hope to say in books is that I love the world. I guess you can find that in there, if you dig around. Animals are part of my world and I try to report them faithfully and with respect.”
Read it out loud to an eight year old if you have one handy. But if you don’t, just read it to yourself. (And that way, no one will see you tear up at the end.)
RATING (one to five whistles, with five being the best): Five Whistles
ALSO ON OUR BOOKSHELVES FOR KIDS AGES 8 TO 108:
The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Ed., Lewis Carroll & Martin Gardner (with original illustrations by John Tenniel)
The Westing Game, Ellen Raskin
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Laura LaVelle is an attorney and writer who lives in Connecticut, in a not quite 100-year-old house, along with her husband, two daughters, and a cockatiel.
Laura can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org