I read Charlotte’s Web a few weeks ago, just for fun. I wasn’t going to review it, but this week I felt like writing a review of something. . . just nice. Charlotte’s Web is just about the nicest book in the world.
If you’ve never read it, it’s the story of a pig, Wilbur, the runt of the litter. He’s saved by the farmer’s daughter, Fern, and eventually goes to live on the farm of her uncle, Homer Zuckerman. There, he meets the spider Charlotte and they become friends. When they learn that Zuckerman plans to butcher Wilbur that winter, Charlotte hatches a plan to save him.
This is an incredibly simple children’s story. Charlotte and Wilbur are immediate friends, and though the stakes are high (I mean, Wilbur’s life is at stake), the story is kind, gentle, and never overly suspenseful. At the same time, there are so many great lessons here. The importance of not judging a person (or spider) by their looks, the simple joy of having and being a true friend, accepting death, embracing your community and your place in the world. It’s no wonder that this book has been a classic for so many years. It celebrates simple pleasures: Fern and her brother swing on a rope in the barn and eat wild raspberries; Fern sits on a milking stool and breathes in the peaceful atmosphere of the stable where Wilbur lives; Wilbur sleeps soundly at night knowing that his dear friend Charlotte is nearby. The geese raise their goslings. Wilbur looks forward to breakfast and enjoys it thoroughly (and does anyone else find the descriptions of his slop to be strangely appetizing? Just me? Okay then).
I can’t remember a time in my life that I wasn’t familiar with this story–in fact, when I started reading it and I got to a part where the gander speaks, all of a sudden I heard it in the distinctive voice my dad always used to voice the gander. I remember my fourth-grade teacher reading it to my class. I remember watching the cartoon movie as a child. I hope that kids today still have Charlotte’s Web being read to them by their parents and teachers. It is some book: terrific, radiant, and humble, just like Wilbur.