One of the things I love most about Charlotte's Web is that E.B. White doesn't dillydally with a lot of overly sweet sentimentality. Yes, it's a poignant story about the enduring power of friendship. And yes, it does include talking, spelling, reading animals, but there's also the very real threat of death hanging over the main characters' heads. White doesn't pull any punches on that count. I mean, the first line of the novel, Where's Papa going with that ax? (If you've somehow managed to avoid hearing anything about Charlotte's Web ever, Papa's only heading out to slaughter a darling runty piglet.), pretty much tells you that although he's treading into the fantastical with talking pigs and spelling spiders, White also has one foot planted firmly in the real world. And in the real world, on real farms, animals are raised and butchered...
"Why did you do all this for me?" he asked. "I don't deserve it. I've never done anything for you."
"You have been my friend," replied Charlotte. "That is 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." --E.B. White
Charlotte's Web is chock full of wonderful lessons about friendship, fidelity, magic, growing up, and of course, life and death. The writing and illustrations are smart and clean and just plain lovely. So, find yourself a copy and dedicate an afternoon to reading with the little person in your life.
If you're head over heels for Charlotte's Web, might I suggest Stuart Little and The Trumpet of the Swan, also by E.B. White? You may also enjoy Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, Kävik: The Wolf Dog, or Black Beauty.
Well now, it seems that concludes the month of novels dedicated to animals. I wonder what next month will bring...
1. Bubbles the pig, via Koala the Bear; 2. Sleepy Classic by Jim Block, via Beautiful Portals; 3. Farmall tractor, via Bippity Boppity Boo; 4. Window lace, via Interior Alchemy; 5. Apricot crumble, via Ignite Light; 6. York pantry cupboard, via Block and Chisel; 7. Denim shirt, via Modern Hepburn; 8. Floral apron, via Inspired; 9. Wellies, via Pretty Stuff; 10. Spiderweb, by me; 11. Eve the rat, by Arathrael on Flickr; 12. Follow Momma by Konstantin Gribov, via Crumpled Envelope.