Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Charlotte's Web | E.B. White

Publication Date: 1952
Author's Nationality: American
Author's Real Name: Elwyn Brooks White
Original Language: English
Genre: Classics (children's literature)
Pages: 184

After reading "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass" I decided to make a conscious effort to revisit some of my childhood favourites.  Since I was going away on vacation, I figured I would have enough time to get through "Charlotte's Web", one of my favourite books as a child.  However, I had so much to do at work that I had to finish the book when I got back.  Due to this, I read the book in two parts... prior to the fair and everything after.

This is still one of my favourite books of all-time, and one that I will read to my children.  White does a tremendous job of taking complex themes like aging, coping with death, friendship and love and somehow makes them simpler to understand.  The book is obviously not just for children; adults can learn a lot about life through the prose as well.  The book serves as a constant reminder of what life is like through the eyes of a child, and it's always important to reinforce childhood memories in order to understand their children but also to understand what was and is important to them.  I love the line "children almost always hang onto things tighter than their parents think they will," because I think it's very true.  Children are sometimes not given credit for their memory because some events they bounce back from very quickly.  Others are very important and stay with you into adulthood.

The book has a nice balance of happiness and sadness... akin to the ebbs and flows of a 'normalized' life.  I was reading John Irving's "The Fourth Hand" on vacation and it mentioned that if you didn't cry when you read "No one was with her when (Charlotte) died" then you weren't human, or something of that ilk.  It was a touching line and often a reality in death.  Wilbur had a tough time coping with his own finite life, but he had an even tougher time losing a friend.  I know as a child I lost many friends in all my moving around, and while I don't remember being read this at the time... it may have helped.  I would surely read it to my child if the situation arose.

This book is timeless (except one reference which stood out to me about recycling and a second about the novelty of a 'deep freeze'), and will continue to be read to generations.  I believe the first time I read Charlotte's Web was after White's death in 1985... and it still rings true to me 25 years later.  White left a wonderful legacy... despite the limited number of publications he produced.  Another reminder of quality over quantity... a lesson that if more learned, would do the world much good.

I have never read "Stuart Little" so I may eventually give that a go.  I feel like the movie (I'm not sure if I watched it or just the previous) tainted my opinion on it but hopefully I can look upon it with to as close as a tabla rasa as possible.

"What a gamble friendship is!" 41
"Wilbur was merely suffering the doubts and fears that often go with finding a new friend." 41
"People are not as smart as bugs." 67
"Children almost always hang onto things tighter than their parents think they will." 69
"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." 91
"When words appeared everyone said they were a miracle.  But nobody pointed out that the web itself is a miracle." 109
"Friendship is one of the most satisfying things in the world." 115

1 comment:

lisa (the little reader) said...

this was definitely a childhood favorite for me, too! thank you for reminding me how wonderful it is.