Cbr15bingo Hold Steady (old favorite), bingo
Did you know that today, October 15, is the birthday of Charlotte’s Web? It’s also my birthday but Charlotte is older than I am, having been introduced to the world on this day in 1952. This is such a beautiful story of friendship. Reading it again, probably about 50 years after I first read it, is like a warm hug. The story of the friendships of Wilbur, Fern, and Charlotte is timeless and welcome in a world that often feels cold and indifferent.
Eight-year-old Fern Arable is horrified to learn that her father is about to slaughter a newborn pig because it is the runt of the litter. She convinces Mr. Arable to let her raise the piglet and names him Wilbur. As Wilbur grows and thrives, it becomes clear that he is going to need more room, and so Mr. Arable talks Fern into letting her uncle, Mr. Zuckerman, raise Wilbur on his farm down the road. Fern visits Wilbur every day, sitting with him in the barn alongside sheep and geese. Wilbur misses living with Fern and doesn’t seem to be welcomed warmly by the other animals. The lambs don’t want to play or be friends with him. Wilbur is very sad until the day he hears a voice in the dark that indicates it wants to be his friend. In the light of day he meets Charlotte, a small gray spider that has spun a web in the upper corner of the barn. Wilbur is initially a bit put off; spiders to him seem bloodthirsty and fierce, but Charlotte is kind and genuinely desires Wilbur’s friendship. When it becomes known that Mr. Zuckerman intends to slaughter Wilbur come Christmas, Charlotte will use her formidable talents to help save Wilbur’s life. She uses her web to spin out messages that astound the humans; “some pig,” “terrific,” “radiant,” and “humble” are the messages she conveys. People from miles around come to see this incredible pig, believing the miraculous messages. More importantly though, Wilbur believes the messages, too. Thanks to Charlotte’s love and friendship, Wilbur believes in himself and will eventually learn what he needs to do to be a good friend in turn to Charlotte.
This book covers some very serious and important messages for children in a simple and beautiful way. One message is about seeing the value in others, even when at first glance they might seem off-putting. Wilbur is a runt, Charlotte is a spider and Fern, to her mother, seems to be a girl whose imagination has run wild and needs to be put in check. But when you spend a little time to know them, to go deeper, you learn how wonderful each one is. Each is more than whatever ‘flaw’ seems obvious at first glance. Believing in someone and affirming their value and goodness can turn their life around. Both Fern and Charlotte do this for Wilbur, and Wilbur will learn how to be a good friend as a result. Another important message in the story is about the circle of life. People grow up and move on from childhood to adulthood, and people die. Death is a part of this story, and while it is sad, death is inevitable. People we love will one day die, just as the seasons must change. I love the way E.B. White addresses these matters, linking them to nature, in his writing. Finally, and this is something I didn’t quite remember from my childhood reading, White gives a lot of factual and very interesting information about spiders: their body parts, their function in nature, their life cycle, the different types of thread they use in their webs. Fascinating!
Everything about this story is just lovely, warm and kind. I’ll end this review with my favorite quote from the story. Wilbur, after moving to the Zuckerman farm, plans out his day and he does something that perhaps we should all do:
From three to four, he planned to stand perfectly still and think of what it was like to be alive….