Charlotte's Web

Charlotte's Web

by E. B. White
Publisher: HarperCollins
Hardcover, 184 pages
Current Retail Price: $16.99

What does a talking spider have to say about life, love, and friendship? Plenty, it turns out—Charlotte affirms to the world that Wilbur is Some Pig, and in the process proves that she's some arachnid.

The story of Fern, a young girl who rescues a runt pig from execution, and her barnyard friends is one of the loveliest stories of our own or any other time.

Wilbur isn't always some pig. He starts out childish, selfish, and afraid, but due to Charlotte's wisdom and friendship, as well as Fern's love and tenderness, he grows into a creature full of graciousness and good sense. He also seems to have a knack for escaping destruction.

Whether it's Fern's father about to kill the baby Wilbur with an axe, or Homer Zuckerman going to turn him into bacon, the pig always gets out of deadly scrapes through the diplomacy and hard work of his best friends. In the end, he demonstrates that the kindness isn't lost on him, and in turn cares for those who ask.

Charlotte's Web ends with one of the sweetest and best lines in all of literature, and only the hardest-hearted reader won't shed a tear, a little sad and a little happy, and a lot grateful for the near-perfect story they've just been told.

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  A Barnyard Tale of Friendship and Sacrifice
Amanda Evans of Oregon, 11/27/2010
Today I finished reading Charlotte's Web to the kids. I managed to do it without crying, though I was sniffing a bunch and had to stop to "cough" a few times. What a beautiful book!

I didn't grow up on a farm or in the country and I find farms to be pretty messy and stinky. But books like this make me wish I had some barns and animals and hay and manure and cherry trees and ponds in my life. I guess that's the beauty of reading. For a little while, I did have those things.

I used to think this was just a cute story about a pig who didn't want to be made into bacon, but it's much more than that. It's about the joy of living and what makes living joyous. Wilbur is not very clever, not very handsome, and not very talented. Charlotte is an ordinary gray spider who sucks blood and has an impressive vocabulary. What can a spider do to save a pig? And why would she even bother? In Charlotte's own words:

"You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what's a life anyway? We're born, we live a little while, we die. A spider's life can't help being something of a mess with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone's life can stand a little of that."