This Children’s Day, I picked up the American classic Charlotte’s Web by E B White, recommended for kids 7+. And I was in for a surprise.
A book about selfless friendship and mortality, it is the story of the pig Wilbur, a runt who is about to literally get the axe from farmer John Arable. Eight-year-old Fern Arable saves Wilbur from an untimely death and raises him until the time comes to send him to neighbour Zuckerman’s barn.
The central character of the story, Wilbur–a spring pig, as he is called in the book, has long eyelashes, loves sleeping, digging, eating slops and playing in warm, moist mud. However, life inside the barn starts to bore him as he craves for a friend to talk to and play with. On a dark rainy day after he gets turned down by the rat, the goose and the lamb, he throws himself in his manure–sobbing, friendless and dejected. As the barn gets darker, the small, thin voice of Charlotte, the spider, comes to his rescue and offers to be his friend.
White tells a fantastic, heart-warming story of friendship between a pig and a spider. Given that it is a children’s book, the language is simple throughout. White spins an inspiring tale with profound insights hidden in humorous, guileless banter between animals. What appeals most to the reader are the beautiful illustrations that add life to the already magical story. The barn animals, the children, the adult characters and the barn itself come alive within the sketches.
As an adult reading the book, the reader gets transported back to childhood, a time where everything seemed possible. Talking to animals, the smell of summer, listening to songs of crickets, playing with friends–the book brings back memories and the enchantment of childhood.
The main characters–Wilbur the pig, Charlotte the spider, Templeton the rat (who eventually grows on you) and Fern the girl make this novel one of the most interesting reads not just for children but for adults as well.
Tender, yet powerful, it makes you smile, it makes you cry, reminds you to cherish the simple joys of life and reinforces the inherent need for love and friendship.
In the end all one can say is, Charlotte’s Web is some book.