"You know "Charlotte's web" is one of my favorite books." Rory, "Gilmore Girls
I completely agree with Rory. E. B. White’s “Charlotte's Web” is one of my favorite books. White uses such a simple story to teach such profound lessons. Wilbur is a young pig, the runt of his litter. The farmer's daughter, Fern, begs her father to save Wilbur's life. He agrees and lets her raise the baby pig. When he is old enough, Wilbur is moved to Fern's uncle's farm where he meets many great characters, all animals, including the greatest friend one could ever hope for…a spider named Charlotte.
While young Wilbur grows, he learns from the other animals that spring pigs are usually killed at Christmas time for ham and bacon. His dear friend Charlotte tells him not to worry; she will find a way to save his life. Charlotte comes up with a brilliant plan...she will spin her web with words to describe Wilbur. Her first web includes "Some Pig." When the farmer sees it, he is shocked, and word quickly spreads about this "miracle." People travel from all over to see the pig and spider web. Charlotte continues to spin other words into the web, and Wilbur is eventually brought to the Fair to compete in the pig competition. The hope is that he will win, and his life will be spared. To find out what happens at the fair, read this amazing book.
I often revisit "Charlotte's Web" because I love the friendship between Wilbur and Charlotte. Young Wilbur looks to his friend Charlotte for help. She is a true friend. When she agrees to help save his life, she finds a way. The quotes on friendship in this book should be read by readers of all ages.
"'You're terrific as far as I'm concerned,' replied Charlotte, sweetly, 'and that's what counts.You're my best friend, and I think you're sensational.'"
"No pig ever had truer friends, and he realized that friendship is one of the most satisfying things in the world."
Perhaps one of the greatest quotes on friendship is Charlotte's response to Wilbur's question "Why did you do all this for me?"
"'You have been my friend,' replied Charlotte. 'That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you.'"
Charlotte and Wilbur's relationship is a wonderful reminder of the importance of being a great friend and having an incredible friend. I love sharing this book with my children because I want them to be a friend like Charlotte and find a friend like Charlotte. Everyone should have a "Charlotte" in their life.
Rereading the book this time, I found a theme that I never noticed as a child. E.B. White writes about how much stronger and wiser children are than adults tend to notice.
"Mothers for miles around worried about Zuckerman's swing. They feared some child would fall off. But no child ever did. Children almost always hang on to things tighter than their parents think they will."
I keep returning to that line and thinking about how children do hang on to things more than adults think they will. I love that quote. It seems that E.B. White was speaking directly to the adults reading the book aloud as a reminder of children’s strength, while also speaking to the children in the voice of an adult who understands them. The young reader enjoying this book realizes at this moment that White knows what they know: they will hang on; they are braver and stronger than adults often realize.
When Fern tells her mother stories of the animals speaking, her mother immediately worries. As an adult reading this book, it is easy to understand and identify with the fear a parent would have in this situation. Fern's mother shares her fear with their family doctor. His reply is brilliant:
"It is quite possible that an animal has spoken civilly to me and that I didn't catch the remark because I wasn't paying attention. Children pay better attention than grownups."
Children often notice things that adults busily pass by. While I am not saying that animals talk, I am also not going to disagree with Fern. She heard animals talk, and I don't doubt her. Children often notice the little things that I miss. E.B. White is right, children pay attention to these things and this is a good reminder for adults to slow down and see the little things. Perhaps, we might even hear an animal speak.
"Charlotte's Web" may initially be thought of as a children's book. While the story includes talking pigs and friendship with spiders, this amazing book should be read by readers of all ages. Everyone can use a reminder of the importance of true friendship.
Photo by Jessica Collins