A girl, a pig and a spider. Who would have imagined that such an obscure combination of characters would result in such a touching, heartfelt story?
Charlotte’s Web is a classic book, one that you are likely to have read at some stage in your life.
A lot of young girls will relate to the animal-loving character of Fern, who saves the life of a baby piglet ‘Wilbur’ and feeds and cares for him herself. Once he gets too big for Fern to keep, lonely Wilbur gets moved off to a farm where he meets other barnyard animals and is befriended by a spider named Charlotte. Aware that he will be slaughtered by the farmer, Charlotte comes up with a plan that not only saves Wilbur’s life, but also earns him enormous fame.
Without ruining the story for the few who haven’t already read it, the characters in the book also encounter sadness and loss. Another reason why this book is great for children aged eight and over, as it portrays real life emotions and experiences.
The story has been adapted into a movie, but try to get your kids into the habit of reading the book before they head to the theatre! It will teach them to appreciate words and their own imagination a lot more.
Why kids will love it
To grow up on a farm would be like a dream for many children. Fern depicts the caring ‘animal-loving’ nature of many children who would relate to her instantly as she tends to the animals and forms friendships.
Each of the farmyard animals is a unique character, and your children will decide for themselves if they are friend or foe. As the story unfolds, they will find that many of the heroic or admirable characters in the story are the unlikely favourites, for example a spider and a rat!
Tips for parents
- Some of the themes in this book are quite serious, so you may get questions about love and loss.
- The book illustrates the power of friendship and companionship, as shown especially between Fern and Wilbur, and Wilbur and Charlotte.
- Wilbur the pig is also an inspiration, as although he was declared as ‘runt of the litter’ at the beginning of the story, goes on to become a famous prize pig, with the help and support of his friends.
- Although the book has many fabulous illustrations, it is not the picture book that many preschoolers would be used to. However, if you think that your child might be ready for the story of Charlotte’s Web, you could read a few pages at a time, and talk through the events of the story at your own pace.
There are many things to discuss and point out when reading this book with your child (or be prepared to discuss if your child is reading it for themselves!)
E. B. White
Born in 1899, Elwyn Brooks “E. B.” White was an American writer who wrote three of the classic childrens books: Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little and The Trumpet of the Swan.