Book Review: Charlotte’s Web

Rating: ★★★★★

Wilbur is a white, runty pig who lives in Homer Zuckerman’s barn.  He is childish, innocent, and amiably piggy, and has two good friends: Fern, the girl who rescued him at birth, and Charlotte, a spider who eats the flies drawn to his pen.  One day the old sheep informs Wilbur of his future as bacon and ham, and Charlotte promises to rescue him from this dreadful fate.  How she intends to keep her promise remains to be seen, and her plan unfolds in chapter after delightful chapter.  The story closes soon after her natural death, and Wilbur, mourning her loss, welcomes her children into his life.

This memorable story provides an example of genuine, loving friendship, which blooms among the hard realities of farm life: Charlotte does trap and eat insects, and the people do kill their animals.  But even given their carnivorous inclinations, the people are goodwilled and faithfully care for their livestock.  Both the human and animal characters are well developed with a careful eye to human nature.  The geese are hilariously goosey, and the old sheep provides several instances of savvy wisdom.  Templeton the rat is memorable in his odious self-centeredness, providing a contrast to Charlotte’s generous love.  The general tone of the book is warm, which makes Charlotte’s death stand out in profound sadness.  But it is these contrasts that have made this story such an enduring classic — the reality of death and pain make joy and love all the sweeter where they exist.

This is a chapter book with occasional illustrations, and should appeal to ages 5-10.  Because its story quality appeals to a wide age group, I recommend it as a first chapter book, although parents should be aware that Charlotte’s death may come as a shock to sensitive listeners.

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Publication Information: White, E.B.. Charlotte's Web. HarperCollins. 1922. ISBN: 0064400557.
Categories: 5 Stars, Age 04-08, Amblesideonline, Book Tree, Books Children Love, Books That Build Character,, First Chapter Books, Honey For a Child's Heart, NEH Summertime Favorites, Newbery Honor, What Stories Does My Son Need, World Books That Show, World Nifty 50
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Posted on September 15, 2009

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