Sunday, 28 June 2015

Charlotte's Web by E. B. White Review


Wilbur is the runt of the litter and about to be put down - but Fern, the farmer’s daughter, saves him from the axe and raises him herself. After he begins to grow, she has to give up Wilbur to her uncle to look after and at the uncle’s farm the pig meets Charlotte, an intelligent and worldly spider, who takes it upon herself to save Wilbur’s bacon again. 

Ok, first of all - yes, I know this is aimed at 6 year olds up to around 11 or so. But I honestly tried reading this with a kid’s eye and even then I was horribly bored by this so-called “classic”. Putting aside Wilbur’s annoying neediness and whining (we’re supposed to be rooting for this weeny!), there is almost no story here. 

Charlotte spins the words “Some Pig” onto her cobweb above Wilbur’s pen, the farmer sees it and decides not to kill Wilbur, believing it to be a special sign, and the pig becomes a local celebrity. Over the weeks, Charlotte spins a few different words into her web and the bumpkins are impressed. A moment of cheap sentimentality later and the book’s over with. 

180 pages! This book drags on for 180 pages with words in a cobweb as the only thing happening!! It should've been half that length at the most. As a grown-up reader, I can get through some boring books - Charlotte’s Web is a good example! As a kid, I wouldn’t have had any patience for EB White’s tedium so it’s no wonder I didn’t read this until well past my childhood. However, even with much, much lowered standards and trying to read this as a stupider little person, this book still sucked. What kid would be entranced with such monotonous rubbish? Sure it’s age appropriate but a child reader should be excited by what they’re reading! 

I can appreciate that it deals with worthwhile themes of friendship and death fairly well, and White tries to make us appreciate the wonders around us that we take for granted. It’s not the words in the web that are incredible but the web itself. I get it. 

But as a kid, I read to be entertained and amazed. Books by Roald Dahl, Raymond Briggs, Lewis Carroll, Beatrix Potter, Dr Seuss, Brian Jacques, Oscar Wilde and Maurice Sendak wrote stories that did that. They stood out for their boundless imagination and powerful storytelling - stories where interesting stuff actually freakin’ happened! 

Charlotte’s Web doesn’t hold a candle to any of those writers’ output and I highly recommend looking up those writers than EB White. His stodgy book is perfect bedtime fodder though as it’ll get the sprogs to sleep in no time!

Charlotte's Web

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