Saturday, December 13, 2008

Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

It may be hard to believe, but until this past week I'd never read Charlotte's Web. Years ago I saw the 1973 animated film adaptation, but that's not the same thing and I am sorry I waited so long; it is such a charming and sweet story.

Charlotte's Web is the story of a young girl named Fern and a spider named Charlotte who befriend a pig and ultimately save his life.

It all begins when a farmer, Mr. Arable, discovers his new litter of pigs includes a runt. Not expecting the pig to survive or amount to anything, Mr. Arable decides to kill it, but his daughter, Fern, comes to the rescue and names the pig, Wilbur. For a few weeks Wilbur lives with Fern, but is eventually sold to her uncle, Homer Zuckerman. It is at the Zuckerman farm that Wilbur meets a little gray spider named Charlotte. It is also on this farm that Wilbur learns that come winter he will be killed and turned into bacon. Fearing for his life Wilbur begins to panic, but Charlotte promises to save Wilbur's life and Charlotte never breaks a promise. The rest of the story and all the supporting cast, both the humans and the farm animals, make this story a delightful children's classic.

Already an editor and writer for several newspapers, E.B. White began to write children's stories in the 1930s for his niece, but it wasn't until the 1940s that any of them were published. The first was Stuart Little, which was soon followed by Charlotte's Web, and later The Trumpet of the Swan. Some readers may also recognize E. B. White's name for his work in co-editing the do's and don'ts of grammar with William Strunk, Jr. in the book, Elements of Style. It might seem unlikely that the editor of a book on grammar could also be successful as a children's author, but nothing could be further from the truth. Charlotte's Web is entertaining and endearing.

As I mentioned above, it's been years since I saw the animated film version. In 2006 another adaptation was made this time as a live-action/computer-animated film version staring Dakota Fanning and Julia Roberts, and many other well-known actors. After reading Charlotte's Web, I borrowed a copy of this movie to see how it compared with the book. The book translates beautifully to the screen and the acting is well done. There are definitely some variations between the book and the movie and the movie and the book, but for the most part the story stays true to the story and I really enjoyed it.

I can't really compare this new film (2006) with the old one (1973) since it's been years since I've seen the latter, but I think for anyone who has read the book and loved it, you can't go wrong with either adaptation.

In my opinion Charlotte's Web by E. B. White, is a book that should be in every reader's collection, especially those with children in the house. I bought my copy as part of a hardcover set that included Stuart Little and The Trumpet Swan, which were on clearance at Borders. The copy of Charlotte's Web is illustrated by Garth Williams and at 183 pages, a very easy read for an adult and great read-aloud to children.

On a scale of one to five, one being horrible and five being excellent I would rate Charlotte's Web a 4.5 to a 5. I loved this story.

In closing, here are a few other recommendations for those who enjoy Charlotte's Web. For the book lover you might consider reading the Freddy the Pig Series. I reviewed the first, Freddy Goes to Florida this past summer. Also, if you haven't already, you might also enjoy The Wind in the Willows, which I reviewed in October. For the reader who is looking for a good movie to watch with their children, if you enjoy Charlotte's Web, you are likely to enjoyed the 1995 film Babe.


Mary Beth said...

I first read this when I was 7 or 8 and my older brother told me "great book - the spider dies in the end." You have to love older brothers!

I tried to read this to my kindergarten class when I was teaching but I had to have someone else read the last few chapters because I couldn't get through without crying.

thebluestockingsociety said...

"In my opinion Charlotte's Web by E. B. White, is a book that should be in every reader's collection." I totally agree. This is one of my favorite books of all time. I LOVE the animated version of the movie, but didn't really like the recent adaptation. I thought they changed it to Dakota Fanning's Web. Anyway, congrats on finishing another book and movie for the Lit Flicks Challenge.

Jessica @ The Bluestocking Society

Sarah said...

We JUST got a copy of this too, last month, when my sister in law bought my Spider OBSESSED daughter the book and the DVD. So far she's watching the DVD and I have the book on my bedside table.

Framed said...

Wonderful review. I read this book when I was in elementary school and loved it.