A children’s book for “kids” of all ages, as are so many books in the KidLit world. 🙂
Hi everyone! It’s me, Donna from Writer’s Side Up! Having borrowed Charlotte’s Web from our local library, the only time I read it was nearly 5 decades ago. Yes, that long! I was a young child. I remember enjoying it and whenever I heard mention of it, a warm spot lit in my heart even though, as time marched on, the details of the story had withered away like an unattended web. Only a few vague images remained, the few “strings” that clung to a barn’s doorway: a girl, a pig, a spider, a web, a fair.
In the years (about 20 now) since I began to actively focus on pursuing children’s literature as an author/illustrator, I’ve heard this classic book referred to many times, as I’m sure you can well imagine! During that time, I’ve also been building my personal library, including some of the classics I hadn’t yet owned, Charlotte’s Web being one of the first I purchased. As you and I are well aware, we book lovers tend to have very long “to be read” lists, whether they are books lining our own shelves or those at bookstores and libraries. For a long time now, Charlotte and Wilbur have been waiting very patiently for me to pay them their due attention. Whenever I’d glance their way, catching a glimpse of their spine, they’d in turn catch my eye—beckoning—knowing I was wistful to revisit them. “I don’t know when, you two, but I will. I will…”
Then, as Sheila has a tendency to do, she dangles an irresistible carrot in front of my face. Well, no, not a carrot ‘cause I could easily resist one of those. She dangles Dove milk chocolate! Sheila being the kind of person who, if she asks a favor, if at all possible you want to oblige, so it was very easy saying “yes” in her quest for guest bloggers. (Actually, I was shocked and honored! “Yes!” was a no-brainer 😉 ) Now, being the blog pro she is, Sheila suggested a wide array of possible topics and approaches, one of which could relate to a book she had in her impressive archives. I was working my way down her list and Charlotte’s Web was the first to flash neon, but far from the only one. If you haven’t already, take a look at Sheila’s archive and you’ll see what I mean! Oh, my, how to decide…
Considering Sheila had already bewitched me with the reread of the whole Harry Potter series (TOtally enjoying it, by the way!), PLUS participation in her “First Book of 2015” meme, in order for me to read a book and write a guest post before her “bon voyage” Down Under, just as with my “first book” selection, this had to be a short one. That’s what helped tremendously in narrowing down my choice. Now, I can tell you—trust me on this—when I tilted this book out from between the other “ladies in waiting,” it twitched beneath my fingertips. Then, as I lifted it from the shelf, the din that rose from the ruckus within its pages was almost deafening. There was an explosion of oinks, moos, honks and every other barnyard sound that could be mustered. It was as if a plank fell from its fence and all the animals were set free! “I know, I know,” I said, “I’m so sorry it’s taken this long, but now that I’m finally here, I can’t wait to hang with you in the barn again—regardless of the smell of manure.”
I wish I could tell you I recall how I felt as a young child while reading this. Whether I laughed—or cried. Had I consciously recognized the character’s characters and the significance of its theme? I’m sure I did—in a child’s way. Would I have picked up on the overall message about the preciousness of every individual’s life—how each serves a purpose? Would I have taken in the point that you don’t discard something—or someone—because, at first, they don’t seem to serve a purpose? Did I truly understand the miracle as the doctor so clearly explained it, about the ability of a spider to spin a web instinctively? I’m sure I enjoyed the many characters, each so clearly depicted through simple yet perfect description, largely through their actions and dialogue, but did I appreciate their distinct personalities? In reading it now, they were evident right away: Wilbur’s sweet innocence, sensitivity and humble nature, easily wearing his heart on his sleeve; Charlotte’s intellect, wisdom, kindness and selflessness with her innate gift of leadership; Templeton, the rat’s self-serving ways, though he’s not all bad. The idiosyncratic* dialogue of each animal is spot on. The humor throughout the book actually made me chuckle at times, largely through the quick-witted remarks by Charlotte. And the true friendship between Wilbur and Charlotte was tied with heartstrings as strong as her web strings, so much so that I didn’t just choke up, I teared up when the inevitable happened, but especially due to the heartache—and joy—that followed.
E. B. White spun a tale so well-constructed, it has caught many a reader in its fine web. Having just read this delightful, poignant story—as an adult—I can easily see why it is so well-deserving of its “classic” classification. It is more than a shame that this treasure made its way onto the list of banned books. When Sheila first reviewed this, she mentioned the reasons why. I also recently spoke out about the banning of books. I sincerely hope, although Charlotte’s Web is not available through school libraries, that it is finding its way into children’s hands as it did into mine. And I encourage you, especially if you haven’t read this book since you were a child or possibly haven’t read it at all—to read it now. To read it again. Read it yourself and share it with the children in your life. Share and experience its richness.
With that said, thank you, Sheila, for the honor of being a guest on your esteemed blog. So glad I found you, and I “think” that was by having followed an “It’s Monday” trail 🙂
* “Idiosyncratic” was one of several “big” words used in this book, never talking down to kids or being overly cautious about levels of vocabulary.