Introducing Our Featured Friend: Charlotte’s Web by E.B.White
Forward by Kate DiCamillo
This is one friend that I don’t need to introduce to you as you are probably already a fan of this story. However, as I started reading the book to our kids recently, the Forward by Kate DiCamillo, (author of Because of Winn-Dixie and Tale of Despereaux) made us excited about reading this well-known story. So rather than writing my synopsis of the book, a portion of the Forward is worth sharing as it captures our Featured Friend beautifully. DiCamillo writes,
“I was a kid who judge a book by its cover, and the cover of Charlotte’s Web made me nervous.”
She shares that she passed over this book because the pictures of a worried pig and a resigned girl, and the first line of the book, “Where’s Papa going with the ax?” didn’t settle well with her. When she was thirty-one and in a writing class of her own, her teacher “held the book up as a miracle of story-telling”, so she read it. Her conclusion:
“Things didn’t turn out well.
But they also did turn out well.
And that, for me, is the crux of the miracle of this book: within the confines of its pages, something terrible, something unbearable, happens. And yet, we bear this unbearable thing. And in the end, we even rejoice.
E.B. White said, ‘All that I hope to say in books, all that I ever hope to say, is that I love the world.’
White loved barns and pastures, dumps and fair grounds, ponds and kitchens. He loved pigs and sheep and geese and spiders. He loved rain and, harnesses, pitchforks, springtime, fall. He loved spiderwebs, monkey wrenches, Ferris wheels.
Every word of Charlotte’s Web bears the full weight of White’s love for the people, seasons, animals, and arachnids of this world. And every word of the book shows us how we can bear the triumphs and despairs, the wonders and the heartbreaks, the small and large glories and tragedies of being here.
We can bear it by loving it all.
These autumn days will shorten and grow cold. The leaves will shake loose from the trees and fall. Christmas will come, then the snows of winter. You will live to enjoy the beauty of the frozen world….Winter will pass, the days will lengthen, the ice will melt in the pasture pond. The song sparrow will return and sing, the frogs will awake, the warm wind will blow again. All these sights and smells will be yours to enjoy, Wilbur–this lovely world, these precious days….
This is Charlotte’s promise to Wilbur.
It is also E.B. White’s promise to his reader: things will continue, life will go on. It will be beautiful, astonishing, heartbreaking. And as long as you keep your eyes and heart open to the wonder of it, as long as you love, it will be okay.”
We all need the words of this book.
Inviting You To Become FRIENDS with Charlotte’s Web:
Feel, Relate, Imagine, Explore, Navigate, Develop, Share
F- When have you felt lonely and in need of a friend? Who befriended you?
R- Which character quality can you most relate to: Fern’s friendliness, Wilbur’s gratitude, or Charlotte’s determination? Tell a story of when you displayed this quality?
I- Imagine that a spider could write three adjectives in her web that describe you, like Charlotte did for Wilbur (terrific, radiant, humble). Which words would the spider write about you and why?
E- Explore how to take care of a specific farm animal either by actually getting one (upon parents approval!) or through research on-line and in books.
N- Navigate the parts of the United States that do the majority of farming. Mark them on the map with a symbol of what they farm: crops, cattle, pigs, etc.
D- “Discover the true meaning of friendship and life’s everyday miracles” by seeing the performance adapted by Joseph Robinette at the Dallas Children’s Theater !
S- Share your friendship by reaching out to someone that is not like you. You may find your own miracle!
Our Family’s Favorite Way to Become Friends with Charlotte’s Web:
The “terrific, radiant” performance at the Dallas Children’s Theater.
My second grader went with his school to the play, so I had a mommy-daughter date to see it too, and we all LOVED it! The cast at the Dallas Children’s Theater capture each character in a memorable way. At first, we thought it may be hard to fall in love with the characters since they are humans acting as farm animals (a spider, pig, geese, and cows, rat, and so on), but it took just a few minutes before we loved each one as though they were the very characters E.B. White created.
The geese made us laugh, the spider amazed us (especially with the special effects of the writing in the web), the pig amused us, and the rat, well, he gave the barn a villain that wasn’t too vile once you really get to know him.
The unexpected friendships that develop on the farm and at the fair between Fern and Wilbur, Wilbur and Charlotte, and even Charlotte and Templeton (“the rat”), and then Fern and her first “boy friend”, all show us the miracles of life that we see, but don’t see unless we slow down, look, listen and learn to love. The performance at the DCT helps us begin this process. For instance, see what my son discovered outside on one of our window screens this week? (pictured below) In the middle of playing back-yard-baseball, our eight-year-old son took time to discover something so small yet significant, and that’s a glimpse of what this book and the play have done for us!
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Other Links to Check Out:
You Tube Video:
Kate DiCamillo shares her experience with Charlotte’s Web. The video closes with pictures of E.B.White and his original manuscripts and photos of him on his farm.