Best. Children’s. Book. Ever.*
(With Apologies to Alice)

h1 August 5th, 2008 by jules

NPR’s Melissa Block has excellent taste.

I’m so glad I caught this yesterday while cooking dinner. Do yourself a favor, and listen to it if you can. E.B. White reads excerpts from the novel, and evidently he did something like SEVENTEEN takes on reading the part about Charlotte’s death when recording it, what with getting choked up so much.

And I own and have read this, but I still learned stuff in this wonderful piece that I didn’t know.

Here’s to Charlotte, who always keeps her promises…

* * * * * * *

* {I cannot claim to speak for Eisha on that claim. It is mine and mine alone.}

15 comments to “Best. Children’s. Book. Ever.*
(With Apologies to Alice)”

  1. I’ll back you up, J. It’s certainly in the top five.

  2. Puts me in the mind of the episode of the The Simpsons when Lisa’s substitute teacher (played by Dustin Hoffman) reads Charlotte’s death scene to the class and everyone sobs. My entire frame of reference, as you can tell, is Simpsons-based.

  3. Fuse, welcome to my brain, my friend. I know what it’s like to think this way. And I have a new respect for you now, as if I needed more.

  4. Not sure if CW or Secret Garden or Treasure Island or White Deer or Where the Wild Things Are or Alice in Wonderland are my favorites.

    But I remember my father coming home from work and finding my mother and me (age 13) in tears. (Brother Steve was probably playing with his toys somewhere else in the apartment.)

    “What’s wrong?” Daddy asked somewhat frantically. He was used to my mother have a cool head in all situations.

    “Charlotte’s dead,” we said, whimpering together.

    “Oh my God, that terrible,” he said, thinking we meant some friend or other. Then realizing he had no idea who we meant, he added, “Who’s Charlotte.”

    When we explained it was a spider in a children’s book, he rushed out of the room and didn’t speak of it again.

    But Mommy and I knew. . .


  5. Jane, my daughter’s at the age where we she can finally sit and listen to a novel (age 4.5 — her younger sister, almost 3, pretty much just squirms and sometimes listens). So, I tried CW on her, and we got to the wonderful farm-life chapter, and I could tell she wasn’t quite ready. Or Wasn’t Quite Into It Enough Yet. Whatever the case may be, a) I flat-out wanted to weep but hid it well and b). I will sure as hell be trying again later.

    Oddly enough, we got through all of Stuart Little, though we all found it quite unbearable. That’s with apologies to SL fans everywhere.

    It might be, too, that she seems to be a little fantasy-lover. We’re on Book 2 of Baum’s Oz books now (The Land of Oz — O! The conflicting messages for and about women in that thing!), and she wanted to hear The Wonderful Wizard of Oz twice.

    Oh my, I’m going on about my kid in that irritating way mamas do. Sorry. It’s just that reading good books to them was the thing I most looked forward to when I was pregnant — like some parents get excited about their kids doing ballet or football. Or whatever.

    I loved your story about CW. Thanks for sharing. It’s one I DREAM of reading to my kids. And if she REMAINS uninterested in it, I’ll just have to adjust.

  6. I was listening to MB’s story on NPR on my drive home from work (a library, fittingly). I mourned the spider I squished the night prior.

  7. Jules,

    I absolutely love CHARLOTTE’S WEB! It’s my favorite children’s book. I never tired of reading the book aloud to my students. I thought it was a book that got better with every reading. My students really got “into” the tale of Wilbur and Charlotte and the other farm animals…and Fern and Avery. I was brokenhearted in the 1990s when I was informed that I would not be allowed to read the book in class any longer because it had been designated a “third grade” book and E. B. White the subject of an author study for that grade.

  8. Schoey, I am ever-amazed at the speed at which some children will squish a spider’s web or spider. And delight in it. I constantly blabber to my children about the reverence we must possess for a spider’s web, a little miracle, a work of art, but I see other kids just go SMOOSH.

    OBVIOUSLY they’ve never met Charlotte.

    Elaine, I’m not surprised you love Charlotte, too.

  9. Thank you for the lovely NPR link. We’re reading and re-reading CW at home right now and I cry at Charlotte’s death every time.

  10. [whispers]I’ve, uh, never read Charlotte’s Web, never even saw the movie(s), in all my Certain Number of Years.

    (7-Imp crowd: “What, NEVER?” JES: “No, never.” 7-Imp: “NEVER?!?” JES: “Well, hardly ev—” 7-Imp: “NEVER!!!“)

    I’m terribly embarrassed to admit that. No idea what the problem is. I *love* EBW’s essays, letters, NYer newsbreaks, just about everything. Just never read that, or Stuart Little either. [scurries into hiding]

  11. Just scurry into hiding WITH THE BOOK, Jes, and read it and come back and tell us what you think.

    I was thinking, for some reason, just this morning about the “classic” children’s books I’ve never read. Dare I admit what they are? I’ll ‘fess up to two: Little Women and Anne of Green Gables.

    This makes my post title here difficult to swallow, I know…considering what I have NOT read.

    If it’s any consolation, as I thought of that this morning, I then thought: I’ve GOT to remedy this.

  12. Jules, I’ve never read Anne of Green Gables either. Should we take that one on together?

    Oh, but I just remembered the last time we made a deal in the comments of a post to read a classic together and it turned out to be a DEAD DOG BOOK. There aren’t any dead dogs in Anne, are there?

  13. Jules, I’ll do it.

    Part of me thinks Hey, it’s a children’s book, won’t take more than a couple hours, right? But then part of me thinks, But its reputation says: expect to spend at least three days weeping. So best I can say is that you’ll hear from me about it sometime in the next week. 🙂 Thanks for the inspiration!

  14. I missed this, so thanks very much for the tip! You have a most lovely blog here. Edward and I have enjoyed our look around very much. We’ve bookmarked you for future visits!
    Best from us both!

  15. I pulled Charlotte’s Web off the shelf yesterday to read to my daughter, and then my husband told me about the NPR piece. I wish I could remember the essay I read about how CW had such a great collection of lists, whether it’s what’s in the barn or what Wilbur is eating. As teary-eyed as I get when Charlotte dies, it’s always the last line that just gets me– oh, here I go again, just thinking about it! I won’t spoil the last line for anyone, but know that it’s one of the best epitaphs EVER.

    I hear you on the dead dog books. I have two dog books I love: Kate DiCamillo’s Because of Winn-Dixie, and Diana Wynn Jones’ Dogsbody.

Leave a Comment

Should you have trouble posting, please contact Thanks.