Charlotte’s Web… book review by Yokibu Editorial
Posted on: August 11, 2018.


The Premise…
Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White—bestselling American author of children’s books—is the tender, yet tenacious tale of a little farm girl named Fern Arable and her barnyard friends—the titular character Charlotte the Spider, a not-so-loveable rogue Templeton the Rat, a disdainful lamb, a talkative goose, and an intelligent old sheep—who team up to save a cute, helpless piglet named Wilbur, Fern’s most favourite pet, from being served up for Christmas Dinner by his first owner and Fern’s father, Mr. John Arable.

Fern is the only human character in the story capable of holding conversations with non-human characters—her barnyard animal friends. Avery Arable, Fern’s brother, provides the much warranted comic relief in this deeply emotional, subtly melancholic, and unabashedly sentimental tale.

The Gist…
Wilbur is amongst the newest litter of pigs in Mr. Arable’s farm. He is a “runt” for whom Mr. Arable finds no use and decides to ‘do away’ with. At Fern’s insistence, her father decides to let the piglet live. He is eventually sold to Mr. Homer Zuckerman, Fern’s Uncle, and Edith his wife, her Aunt. Mr. Zuckerman gives the little pig to Fern as a gift, seeing how genuinely concerned she is about its welfare.

Fern instantly develops a deep affection towards her new piglet, names him Wilbur, and decides to raise him herself. Wilbur and Fern forge a bond of long-lasting fondness for each other. Fern initially doesn’t get to meet Wilbur a lot, but later gets to be at his side every step of the way. In Fern’s absence, Wilbur starts to feel quite lonely in the big barn. But that is only until he meets Charlotte, a beautiful, big, grey spider who lives in the doorway of the barn, overlooking Wilbur’s enclosure, and become firm friends. Fern continues to visit Wilbur, and his friendship grows with Charlotte. Wilbur is overwhelmed with having so much to learn every day, and often gets strongly emotional.

As Wilbur grows up though, it becomes increasingly obvious that Mr. Zuckerman plans to sell Wilbur to the market. One day, the old sheep tells of the plot that the Zuckerman’s feeding Wilbur with specially prepared, tasty “chops” is not a gesture of love but a scheming plan to fatten Wilbur up for their Christmas dinner. That is when the star of the book, the spider Charlotte, steps in to help, and hatches an ingeniously stunning plan to save Wilbur’s life, in a way that amazes and astounds the whole town! She weaves a web with the message, “SOME PIG”. Mr. Zuckerman is awestruck when he sees it! Consequently, people from all over the county visit the Zuckerman’s farm to see this amazing hog.

The Zuckerman’s, seeing how popular young Wilbur had become, and realizing how they could exploit his newfound popularity for riches, decide to install him as a Prize Pig at the local county fair, expecting to earn bountiful rewards! Wilbur is trucked down to the fairgrounds to begin his days as a prize pig, with Charlotte and Templeton Rat riding along as stowaways. However, Wilbur does not earn any prizes but wins the love and adulation of the fair’s staff. Consequently, the Zuckerman’s have a change of heart and decide that Wilbur would be taken back to their farm and be protected from harm’s way, let alone thinking of serving him up for the Christmas Feast.

Shortly after Wilbur departs, Charlotte, who stays back at the fair, weaves her egg sac with 514 of her unhatched eggs, but then dies from apparent exhaustion. Back at Mr. Zuckerman’s farm, Wilbur guards Charlotte’s egg sac that was retrieved from the fair and is filled with joy, watching them hatch into babies. But when the new spiders start to depart shortly, Wilbur is saddened. However, the three smallest of them decide to stay at the farm, in the doorway where Charlotte used to live. Wilbur, happy at having new friends, names one of them Nellie, while the remaining two name themselves Joy and Aranea.

The Message…
Despite the drama and hardships that Wilbur and his friends face, each one brings something unique and helpful to the group. The most unlikely creatures join forces to comfort and save one another – even if it means putting themselves in harm’s way. There is such affection and humour in this story and the characters so well written, but it is Charlotte that children would love and admire the most. It shows children what true friendship is, and that nothing else is quite as important as the love and loyalty of a best friend.

Illustrations by Garth Williams also add to the enjoyment to the story and are frequent but not in the least intrusive.


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