Thursday, July 14, 2011

Charlotte's Web

Charlotte's Web
E. B. White
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins (October 2, 2001)
Winner: 1953 Newbery Honor Award
5/5 stars

(Yes, more from my Children's Lit class. . . )

Charlotte's Web is White's classic story about the friendship of a pig, a girl and a spider.  Fern saves Wilbur, the runt of the litter, from an untimely death, and hand raises him.  When he is too big to stay with Fern, her uncle buys him, with the intent of enjoying pork all winter.  Wilbur makes a friend in his new home, an intelligent and kind spider named Charlotte.  Charlotte makes it her life's goal to save Wilbur, regardless of the costs to herself.  It is a novel of friendship, of life and death, and of the power of the written word.

Though White's prose is perfect, it is sometimes clinical, lacking some of the more exciting literary devices that make prose pop and sparkle.  His understanding of ten year old girls seems a bit lacking, but his ability to detail farm life and spider behavior make the animal characters and background come alive.  I can't help but wish Fern's character had been more rounded out, and that she had played more a part later in the story, but White's focus was on the barnyard and not on the human players.

Rereading Charlotte's Web is like visiting an old friend: it stays the same but yet there is always something new as well.  This time was no different, and I was newly impressed with White's message on the importance of words and language.  As always, I found his depiction of true friendship to be beautiful and moving. 

Despite any minor complaints I may have, Charlotte's Web is a warm, funny, and real book and deservedly a classic.

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