I read Charlotte’s Web as a child but had forgotten the story and how it ends. It was lovely to read it again with my daughter who enjoyed hearing about Wilbur, the pig, Charlotte, the spider, and our favourite character, Templeton, the rat.
The Story: Fern rescues Wilbur, the runt of the litter, and he goes to live on Mr Zuckerman’s farm where he will be fattened up to be eaten. Wilbur becomes friends with the farmyard animals including a grey spider called Charlotte. When Charlotte hears of Wilbur’s plight she weaves the words ‘Some Pig’ into her web. This causes Wilbur to become a celebrity! Further messages on Charlotte’s web ensure that Wilbur receives an outstanding award at the County Show and his future is secured. Wilbur returns to the farm without Charlotte but takes her newly laid eggs, ensuring that he will have her children for company.
Charlotte’s Web includes a colourful cast of animal characters including a goose who constantly repeats herself and Templeton, the rat, who, despite being bad tempered, will do anything for food. He makes us laugh especially when Charlotte sends him to the dump to find new words to weave into her web, crunchy isn’t a word that gives the right impression but finds a washing powder advert which gives her a word she can use!
The main theme in Charlotte’s Web’s is friendship. Central to the story is the friendship between Wilbur and Charlotte but Fern’s loyalty to the little pig also plays an important role in the story. Fern’s mother is concerned about Fern spending so much time at the farm with Wilbur and the other animals so she is delighted when Fern starts spending time with a friend, Henry Fussy.
Charlotte’s Web was first published in 1952 and portrays a world where farming was done without the use of technology and children played outside unsupervised. It took my daughter a few chapters to become really interested in the book but then she wanted me to keep reading until the end. She learnt about what pigs eat (she was fascinated by the idea of slops), the dirty habits that rats have and we talked a lot about spiders, how long they live, how they lay their eggs and how they spin their webs (we found it funny when Wilbur tried to spin his own web!). Another of our favourite chapters was when Wilbur tried to prove to Charlotte that he was radiant so that she could write the word in her web.
We really enjoyed reading Charlotte’s Web. The story moves at a gentle pace but it is amazing how much action can take place in one farmyard!
Age Range: 6+
Author: E.B.White / Illustrator: Garth Williams
Charlotte’s Web is the second book that we have read for the 2015 Classics Challenge.