Charlotte’s Web

October 19, 2016
Charlotte's Web Book Cover Charlotte's Web
E. B. White
Fiction
Harper Collins Publishers
March 15th, 2015
Audiobook
184
Library
Garth Williams
1952

This beloved book by E. B. White, author of Stuart Little and The Trumpet of the Swan, is a classic of children's literature that is "just about perfect."

Some Pig. Humble. Radiant. These are the words in Charlotte's Web, high up in Zuckerman's barn. Charlotte's spiderweb tells of her feelings for a little pig named Wilbur, who simply wants a friend. They also express the love of a girl named Fern, who saved Wilbur's life when he was born the runt of his litter.

E. B. White's Newbery Honor Book is a tender novel of friendship, love, life, and death that will continue to be enjoyed by generations to come. This edition contains color illustrations by Garth Williams, the acclaimed illustrator of E.B. White's Stuart Little and Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series, among many other books.

(via Goodreads)

 

As part of my quest to read every Newbery Award winner, I couldn’t wait to revisit a childhood favorite: Charlotte’s Web. A heartwarming story about life, love, and death told through the eyes of a vibrant collection of characters— most of which are farm animals.

Wilbur didn’t want food, he wanted love.

Charlotte’s Web is extra special in my heart for many reasons.Β When I was a little girl, my mother read this book aloud to me.charlottes-web-making-friends I had already found a passion for reading at a young age, but there is something extra special about a Mother reading aloud which creates a magical world. Then, in third grade, we read this book as a class. As part of our study, we were going to put on a play portraying this book. I desperately wanted to be cast as Fern. Unfortunately, I was not, and I remember being horrifically upset. My teacher came to find me at recess asking what was wrong:

Bawling Jackie: “I wanted to be Fern. She’s the most important.”
Teach: “Why?”
Bawling Jackie: “She’s the only girl.”
Teach: “..what about Charlotte? She saves Wilbur.”
<Jackie stares in wonderment>

Until that moment, it didn’t occur to me that us people could play animals. My teacher cast me as Charlotte, and I was introduced to theatre and an even deeper love of literature. Suddenly (even though I was only 11), I had to really understand the motivations of this character. I read this book repeatedly. I was determined to be as spider-like and Charlotte-like as I could. It was literally life changing.

Charlotte’s Web is a powerful story about the realities of life. The runt of a pig litter is saved by young Fern who names the tiny pig Wilbur.Β charlottes-web-terifficShe cares for him until he grows large enough to need to live on her uncle’s farm. At Zuckerman’s farm Wilbur’s life is perfect– that is, until he learns that he will likely be this Christmas’s dinner! Horrified, Wilbur turns to the farm community, and to his closest friend Charlotte, A beautiful, intelligent gray spider with an impeccable vocabulary, to help rescue him from this terrible fate.

Fern was up at daylight, trying to rid the world of injustice. As a result she now has a pig. A small one to be sure, but nevertheless a pig. It just shows what can happen if a person gets out of bed promptly.

The magic in this book is hard to nail down. Perhaps it comes from how the farm animals are portraying human characteristics, but still behave like the animals they are. Perhaps it is the humor which appeals to both children and adults alike. Perhaps it is the well-crafted set of characters who all serve their own part in this story. Perhaps it comes from the ease of which the animals discuss the realities of life, death, friendship, and change– and in such a way that the horrors are acknowledged, but also accepted as part of life.

In this reading, I listened to the audiobook as read by E.B. White. If you think White’s prose is gorgeous before listening to him read this text, just you wait! I was honestly transported to a new place completely. His words are so simple, yet strung together in a way that portrays life and characters in a very real way.

The crickets felt it was their duty to warn everybody that summertime cannot last forever. Even on the most beautiful days in the whole year – the days when summer is changing into autumn – the crickets spread the rumor of sadness and change.

The only downside to listening to the audiobook is that you miss out on Garth Williams’ gorgeous illustrations (included in this post). charlottes-web-crunchyWilliams worked closely with White to ensure these characters came to life in White’s vision.Β Honestly, I don’t think I would have clicked so much with this book as a child if it weren’t for this art. I learned a lot about Garth Williams and the origin of this art from the 50th Anniversary edition Afterward by Peter F. Neumeyer. For example, did you know that originally charlotte was going to be an anthropomorphic spider? Obviously, White wouldn’t have it. And I’m so glad.

No one ever had such a friend — so affectionate, so loyal, and so skillful.

If you have never read Charlotte’s Web before, I strongly encourage you to do so. It’s a beautiful book, and I know you’ll find meaning within its pages. This will always be a favorite of mine, and I hope it becomes one for you if it isn’t already.

6 Stars


What do you think?

  • Have you read Charlotte’s Web before? Did you enjoy it or not?
  • What books from your childhood have withstood the test of time? What books do you still love as an adult?
  • Have you seen any of the film adaptations? How do they compare to the book?
  • What character is your favorite?

40 Comments

  • Books, Vertigo and Tea October 19, 2016 at 9:35 am

    Such a great book! I am not sure I could handle missing out on the illustrations. They bring back so many memories. Great review!

    • Jackie B October 19, 2016 at 9:48 am

      Thanks, Danielle! The illustrations are certainly key. But, I’ve read it so many times before, and I’ve seen the animated film, so I saw the characters clearly in my head. It was lovely hearing how E.B. White expected the story to be paced and his interpretation of the character reactions. A very different take than my own.

      • Books, Vertigo and Tea October 19, 2016 at 11:54 am

        When you put it into perspective like that, I imagine it could be very interesting. Now I am thinking there are probably several books that might be worth checking out on audio

        • Jackie B October 21, 2016 at 10:40 am

          Oh! If you are looking into audiobooks, I suggest checking out the Audie Award Winners. These yearly audiobook awards help you find awesome experiences with audiobooks. There’s nothing like a bad narrator to ruin a wonderful story, so start strong if you can! πŸ™‚

      • Books, Vertigo and Tea October 19, 2016 at 4:58 pm

        It’s working!!! Yay πŸ™‚

        • Books, Vertigo and Tea October 19, 2016 at 5:02 pm

          Ok so WordPress is just broke. One minute I can comment and pull up your blog, the next I cannot πŸ™ bummer.

          • Jackie B October 20, 2016 at 12:44 pm

            WordPress has been a real pain to me lately. It keeps dropping my .org account and pretending I don’t exist. I’m trying to figure it out. Hopefully it will keep working now!

            • Books, Vertigo and Tea October 20, 2016 at 12:52 pm

              I am having formatting and and commenting issues.. grrr. Good luck ❀

              • Jackie B October 20, 2016 at 1:07 pm

                I’m sorry you’re also having issues! But, in all honesty, it makes me feel good to know I’m not alone!

        • Jackie B October 20, 2016 at 12:45 pm

          X-D Hurray!

  • Birdie October 19, 2016 at 9:46 am

    Charlotte’s Web has always been one of my favorites. My grandpa used to read it to me when I was a little girl, and I read it to my daughter when I was little. It’s one of those books where no matter how many screen adaptations they attempt, they can never capture the beauty of the books prose. It reminds me a lot of my other favorite childhood book, Where the Red Fern Grows, the both have that simple but elegant writing style that just can’t be duplicated.

    • Jackie B October 19, 2016 at 10:58 am

      Exactly, Birdie! Particularly after listening to E.B. White read this, I know I’ll never really appreciate the adaptations the same way. They just don’t quite capture the magic.
      Also, thanks for mentioning Where the Red Fern Grows. I haven’t read that book since my elementary school days– I certainly need to re-read it now. Added to my TBR. πŸ™‚

      • Birdie October 19, 2016 at 11:09 am

        I hope you do a review of that one! I’d love to read your thoughts. πŸ™‚

  • M @ A Blog Of One's Own October 19, 2016 at 3:16 pm

    See, this is is another classic that I never read πŸ™ There are just so many books to read! Beautiful review πŸ™‚

    • Jackie B October 20, 2016 at 12:45 pm

      Ha. That’s so true. There are never enough minutes in the day! I wish I had a time-turner just so I could read more. πŸ™‚ Then perhaps I’d finally get through the majority of my TBR. Perhaps. πŸ˜‰

  • Read Diverse Books October 20, 2016 at 8:26 pm

    I also haven’t read this one! D: But I am familiar with the story and am positive I’ll love reading the book, even as an adult.
    I didn’t have parents who read to me as a child, which is why my love for reading developed later than most avid readers. But I’m hopelessly in love with books now and I don’t mind reading children’s books.One day I will have to read Carlotte’s Web. and your lovely review certainly makes a strong case for why I should! I mean, I’ve never seen a book get 6 stars!!!!

    • Jackie B October 21, 2016 at 10:38 am

      You should! It’s such a beautiful book. I feel like I’m being redundant and I’ve said that a million times, but it’s true. There is something powerful about this book as it is written for children to understand the darker complexities of life without scaring them. I look forward to hearing your opinion someday.

      • Read Diverse Books October 23, 2016 at 2:41 am

        I believe you πŸ™‚ Maybe in the next big readathon I’ll squeeze it in, since I’m sure I can breeze through it.

  • Anne October 21, 2016 at 9:01 am

    A beautiful story about a beautiful story! <3 I have never read Charlotte's Web (guess it's just not as popular over here because no one seems to know it [and by no one, I mean my family members who didn’t read to me as a child *cries]).
    I just gotta ask because I vaguely remember hearing stuff about this…does Wilbur die? I don’t know if I could handle it if he does!

    • Jackie B October 21, 2016 at 10:35 am

      That wouldn’t surprise me that you haven’t heard of Charlotte’s web, honestly. He’s an American writer who lives from 1899-1985. If you can, I encourage you to check out any of E.B. White’s children’s books. He only wrote a few, as he started writing them when he was older. Stuart Little and The Trumpet of the Swan are his other two award winning children’s books. Charlotte’s Web is my favorite, though.
      And, without too big a spoiler, one character does die– but it’s perfect. And just what should happen. πŸ™‚

      • Anne October 21, 2016 at 2:12 pm

        I didn’t hear of it until I joined Goodreads 3 years ago. I think it might even have been the first book that went on my TBR there ;). I watched the Stuart Little movies and loved them! Oh [speechless], I hope it’s a caterpillar, only to wake up as a beautiful butterfly again. But there aren’t any caterpillars in this book huh. *strokes chin*

  • Lost In A Good Book October 21, 2016 at 3:37 pm

    I love this book so much. I just recently read it for the first time to my little girl. Well, I read the first few chapters and then she got tired of waiting for me and read the rest herself. πŸ™‚ A girl after my own heart if I may say so myself. Did you ever see the old cartoon? I always loved it. The music was written by the same team (the Sherman Brothers) who wrote the music for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Mary Poppins.

    • Jackie B October 24, 2016 at 12:38 pm

      I loved that cartoon movie when I was a kid– I didn’t realize the Sherman Brothers wrote the music! Well, now that I think about it, it shouldn’t surprise me. My favorite song was always Templeton’s singing at the fair. “A fair is a veritable schmorgasboard-orgasboard-orgasboard after the crowds have ceased!” (Now this is stuck in my head)
      I also thought that Fern looked just like Wendy from Peter Pan, too. Similar animation style.

      • Lost In A Good Book October 24, 2016 at 4:52 pm

        LOL Templeton!! Love it! Yeah I was watching a documentary about the Sherman Brothers and he mentioned writing the music for Charlotte’s Web and I thought, well I didn’t know, but now that I think of it, of course he did. The song Charlotte sings at the end reminds me a lot of Mary Poppins.

  • 4thhouseontheleftAl October 22, 2016 at 6:20 am

    My daughter fell in love with Charlotte’s Web when she was 4. She was an early, self-taught reader and this was one of her first chapter books that she read herself. And, boy did she read it over and over! At one point, she literally had the whole story memorized, and her animal voices were hilarious! She’s in 3rd grade now, and still loves it. She even dressed up as Fern one Halloween!

    • Jackie B October 24, 2016 at 12:41 pm

      That’s wonderful! I am so impressed that your daughter was such an early reader! This is a great first chapter book for kids, too. Did she recite passages around the house? I used to do that with Goodnight Moon, but that’s a bit easier to remember. πŸ˜‰

  • Mindy October 23, 2016 at 1:16 pm

    This was the first book our teacher read aloud to us. I think I was in first or second grade. I loved the story very much. Then the movie came to our local theater and we got to go on a field trip to see it. It was interesting to see the difference in the two. I loved the book and made sure my kids read it as soon as they were old enough. It is one of my all-time favorites. Great review!

    • Jackie B October 24, 2016 at 12:42 pm

      Thanks, Mindy! It’s great hearing that so many people have great memories of this book. For some reason, it never occurred to me that other people might also have had significant memories of this book! These stories are wonderful.

  • Amanda @Cover2CoverMom October 25, 2016 at 1:13 pm

    Jackie, I absolutely adored this review. I love how this book had such an impact on you at such a young age. I will definitely need to read this one to my daughter when she is a little older.

    “my quest to read every Newbery Award winner” – very ambitious!

    • Jackie B October 25, 2016 at 1:35 pm

      Thanks, Amanda– I love this quest. But, honestly, it doesn’t feel that daunting. There are only 94 Newbery winners. Since they are all meant for younger audiences, I can often read one of these books in a single day. It’ll take me a few years, but it’s totally worth it. Plus, I love seeing the change in how children’s books are written over time. They are getting stronger and stronger every year.

      • Amanda @Cover2CoverMom October 25, 2016 at 9:31 pm

        It would be interesting to compare and contrast the trends in the books from the earliest winners to the most recent…

      • Amanda @Cover2CoverMom October 25, 2016 at 9:35 pm

        It would be interesting to compare and contrast the trends in the books from the earliest winners to the most recent… I would also be curious to see if these books that are aimed towards these younger audiences are starting to become more “mature” in content over the years…
        I’ll expect this post in a few years lol

        • Jackie B October 25, 2016 at 11:04 pm

          Don’t worry. I’ll be certain to keep you abreast of my findings. πŸ™‚ It’s my bookish community that is keeping me accountable!

      • Amanda @Cover2CoverMom October 25, 2016 at 9:53 pm

        It would be interesting to see the trends in books aimed for younger audiences… like if the material is getting more mature as the years go on? I expect a full report in the next few years lol

        • Jackie B October 27, 2016 at 12:43 pm

          Yes, ma’am! Full report expected by the end of 2020. πŸ˜‰

  • Chiara @ Books for a Delicate Eternity October 26, 2016 at 7:54 pm

    I have always adored Charlotte’s Web, even though the ending really upsets me every time (although there is that little spark of light at the very end). I used to watch an animated version of it ALL the time as a kid, and I absolutely adored it. I wasn’t a huge fan of the live action one that was released in the 2000s. I much preferred my old animated one, haha!

    I have a beautiful hardback edition of this was those gorgeous illustrations, and I really do think they add something special to the story. I had no idea White had narrated the audiobook, though, and I think listening to that would be quite incredible. Hearing the inflections and pacing that the author intended would be such an experience.

    I’m glad you still loved this book so much!

  • Resh Susan @ The Book Satchel October 30, 2016 at 10:28 pm

    I read Charlotte’s web as an adult and I found it to be a meaningful and engrossing read. There are so many thoughts on friendship as well as grief to ponder on. I would totally recommend reading it as an adult

    • Jackie B October 30, 2016 at 10:34 pm

      I’m so glad I’m not alone in this! It’s almost shocking to me how much I still got out of this as an adult. In fact, many of my thoughts were new thanks to my life experiences. I adore books like this.

Participate in the discussion!

%d bloggers like this: