Kristine's Reviews > Charlotte's Web

Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
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Jun 07, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: classics, childrens-chapter, i-own, read-aloud, newbery-challenge, newbery-honors, kids-lit, favorites
Read from September 07 to October 03, 2012

{spoilers ahead, but on the other hand, if you've seen the Disney movie, you should be ok}

FYI this review will NOT do this book justice. Maybe one day I'll spend a year writing a critical analysis titled "Why I Love Children's Literature" and use this book as its topic. Because it's really that good. I know some people don't get kid's books. But I have really found there to be no lack of word crafting, prose, strong characterization and voice, complexity of plot and presentation, or meaning in children's literature. There's so much crap out there for adults I actually have an easier time finding good literature in the children's realm. /end rant

Wow. Reading this as an adult is quite a trip. I read it as a child and didn't remember it. I now see why this book keeps on winning the #1 Best Chapter Book polls year after year.

This starts sweet enough with a darling girl Ellie's age adopting a runt-ling pig and just turning it into a sweet little pet that ends up down the road at her uncle's farm. Sweet Fern and Wilbur. And then, it takes a little turns as the main character starts worrying about about his future murder. I glanced over at Ellie to see how she's taking all the murder talk, and we're good. Phew.

Throughout reading I'm struck by several things.

(1) The complexity of the characters. Wilbur is a simple character, but he really develops. Innocence and loyalty and ultimately devotion in return for sacrifice. The rest of the characters you expect to be sorted into Black and White. Even Charlotte is a bloodsucking killer who ends up sacrificing everything for someone else. If you stop and think about why the author chose a spider for a heroine. What is the human reaction to a spider? Especially for kids. This is a thing you've always thought as a bad thing that needs to be killed. What's the purpose of of a blood-sucking hero in a children's book? Also, you figure if Mr. Zuckerman is planning on slaughtering our dear Wilbur he'd be the stock villain. But he's not. Fern's devotion turns to apathy. Mrs. Arable's hostility turns into admiration. Avery's reactions turn from bullying to pride. Templeton is a lazy, good-for-nothing, gluttonous, selfish rat who actually is the one that helps make Charlotte's miracles possible.

(2) Cycles and Nature. Have you ever wanted to live on a farm? After reading this book, you will. The turning season, the new goslings, and croaking frogs. {sigh} Cozy. And the miracles that occur in nature, have you ever thought and pondered how a spider knows how to spin a web without any instructions from anybody? What is a miracle? What deserves wonder from this human experience?

(3) Friendship. What does friendship mean? What do friends do? Well, we like each other; and because we like each other we do things for each other. What do friends expect in return? What role does sacrifice play?
"Why did you do all this for me?" he asked. "I don't deserve it. I've never done anything for you."

"You have been my friend," replied Charlotte. "That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what's a life, anyway? We're born, we live a little while, we die. A spider's life can't help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone's life can stand a little of that."

This book is life and death, joy and sorrow, gain and loss. The writing is exquisite, the plot is pitch perfect, and NOW I know why the book is a classic. Literally amazing.

p.s. And I was dying - DYING - when Charlotte dies alone. Tears were shed - many tears were shed. According to Ellie, this book makes "my eyes turn black."
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02/21/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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Grace you explain this so well! Its a timeless classic that you cn read over and over and love it more every time.

sandra stack Super awesome

sandra stack I love it if you want to be the pig or the girl

sandra stack Tell me

Minh Anh  Trần Your review is extremely sweet and specific. It gave me such a deep understanding of the book that I decided to do an assignment based on the review. Thank you so much :)

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