Believe it or not, I’ve never read Charlotte’s Web before. I bought it for my niece’s birthday and read it quickly before I wrapped it. It’s a charming story with the bit of pathos that all children’s books should have.
Fern is devastated to learn that the runt from the latest litter of pigs is to be killed, so she begs her father to keep him. He allows her to hand-raise the piglet, and she names him Wilbur.
When Wilbur is a month old, he goes to live in a nearby farmer’s barn. After spending most of his time during the previous month playing with Fern, he is lonely, although Fern visits him often. No one in the barn seems interested in being his friend, though. After he asks each animal to be his friend, someone he has not even noticed says she will. She is Charlotte, a spider whose web is right in the doorway above his sty.
This is a delightful tale full of the smells and sights of rural life. Although the story starts with Fern, it is soon about how Charlotte and the barnyard animals try to figure a way to save Wilbur from being Christmas dinner. Although it doesn’t shy away from the basic truths of farm life, it is calm and gentle in tone and has lessons about friendship. It’s a wonderful book for reading to smaller children or one that slightly older children can read themselves. I think many modern children may envy the freedom eight-year-old Fern and her older brother Avery find in their rural life.