Charlotte's Web is an award-winning children's novel by acclaimed American author E. B. White, about a pig named Wilbur who is saved from being slaughtered by an intelligent spider named Charlotte. The book was first published in 1952, with illustrations by Garth Williams.
The novel tells the story of a pig named Wilbur and his friendship with a barn spider named Charlotte. When Wilbur is in danger of being slaughtered by the farmer, Charlotte writes messages praising Wilbur (such as "Some Pig") in her web in order to persuade the farmer to let him live.
Written in White's dry, low-key manner, Charlotte's Web is considered a classic of children's literature, enjoyable to adults as well as children. The description of the experience of swinging on a rope swing at the farm is an often cited example of rhythm in writing, as the pace of the sentences reflects the motion of the swing. Publishers Weekly listed the book as the best-selling children's paperback of all time as of 2000.
Charlotte's Web was made into an animated feature by Hanna-Barbera Productions and Paramount Pictures in 1973. Paramount released a direct-to-video sequel, Charlotte's Web 2: Wilbur's Great Adventure, in the US in 2003 (Universal released the film internationally). A live-action film version of E. B. White's original story was released on December 15, 2006. A video game based on this adaption was also released on December 12.
The book begins when John Arable's sow gives birth to a litter of piglets, and Mr. Arable discovers one of them is a runt and decides to kill it. However, his eight year old daughter Fern begs him to let it live. Therefore her father gives it to Fern as a pet, and she names the piglet Wilbur. Wilbur is hyperactive and always exploring new things. He lives with Fern for a few weeks and then is sold to her uncle, Homer Zuckerman. Although Fern visits him at the Zuckermans' farm as often as she can, Wilbur gets lonelier day after day. Eventually, a warm and soothing voice tells him that she is going to be his friend. The next day, he wakes up and meets his new friend: Charlotte, the grey spider.
Wilbur soon becomes a member of the community of animals who live in the cellar of Zuckerman's barn. When the old sheep in the barn cellar tells Wilbur that he is going to be killed and eaten at Christmas, he turns to Charlotte for help. Charlotte has the idea of writing words in her web extolling Wilbur's excellence ("some pig", "terrific", "radiant", and eventually "humble"), reasoning that if she can make Wilbur sufficiently famous, he will not be killed. Thanks to Charlotte's efforts, and with the assistance of the gluttonous rat Templeton, Wilbur not only lives, but goes to the county fair with Charlotte and wins a prize. Having reached the end of her natural lifespan, Charlotte dies at the fair. Wilbur repays Charlotte by bringing home with him the sac of eggs (her "magnum opus") she had laid at the fair before dying. When Charlotte's eggs hatch at Zuckerman's farm, most of them leave to make their own lives elsewhere, except for three: Joy, Aranea, and Nellie, who remain there as friends to Wilbur.
- Wilbur is a rambunctious pig, the runt of his litter, who loves life, even that of Zuckerman’s barn. He sometimes feels lonely or fearful.
- Charlotte A. Cavatica , or simply Charlotte, is a spider who befriends Wilbur, who at first seems bloodthirsty due to her method of catching food. 
- Fern Arable, daughter of John Arable and Mrs. Arable, is the courageous eight-year-old girl who saves Wilbur in the beginning of the novel.
- Templeton is a gluttonous rat who helps Charlotte and Wilbur only when offered food. He serves as a somewhat caustic, self-serving comic relief to the plot.
- Avery Arable is the brother of Fern. He appears briefly throughout the novel.
- Homer Zuckerman is Fern’s uncle who keeps Wilbur in his barn. He has a wife, Edith, and a hired man named Lurvy who helps out around the barn.
- Other animals living in Zuckerman’s barn with whom Wilbur converses are a disdainful lamb, a goose who is constantly sitting on her eggs, and an old sheep.
- Henry Fussy is a boy Fern’s age whom Fern becomes very fond of.
- Uncle is Wilbur’s rival at the fair, a large pig whom Charlotte doesn’t consider to be particularly refined.
White's editor Ursula Nordstrom said that one day, in 1952, E.B. White handed her a new manuscript out of the blue, the only version of Charlotte's Web then in existence, which she read soon after and was hugely impressed with. Charlotte's Web was published three years after White began writing it.
Since E. B. White published Death of a Pig in 1948, an account of how he failed to save a sick pig (which had been bought in order to be fattened up and butchered), Charlotte’s Web can be seen as White attempting "to save his pig in retrospect."
When White met the spider who originally inspired Charlotte, he called her Charlotte Epeira (after Epeira sclopetaria, the Grey Cross spider, now known as Aranea sericata), later discovering that the more modern name for that genus was Aranea. In the novel, Charlotte gives her full name as "Charlotte A. Cavatica", revealing her as a barn spider, an orb-weaver with the scientific name Araneus cavaticus.
The anatomical terms (such as those mentioned in the beginning of chapter nine) and other information that White used came mostly from American Spiders by Willis J. Gertsch and The Spider Book by John Henry Comstock, both of which combine a sense of poetry with scientific fact. White incorporated details from Comstock's accounts of baby spiders, most notably the "flight" of the young spiders and also the way one of them climbs to the top of a fence before launching itself into the air. White sent Gertsch’s book to Illustrator Garth Williams. Williams’ initial drawings depicted a spider with a woman’s face, and White suggested that he simply draw a realistic spider instead.
White originally opened the novel with an introduction of Wilbur and the barnyard (which later became the third chapter), but then decided to begin the novel from a human perspective by introducing Fern and her family on the very first page. White’s publishers were at one point concerned with the book’s ending and tried to get White to change it.
The author’s granddaughter, Martha White, thinks many children don’t necessarily see the book as set in Maine. Charlotte's Web has become White's most famous book. However, White treasured his privacy and the integrity of the farmyard and barn that helped inspire the novel, which have been kept off limits to the public according to his wishes.
Charlotte's Web was generally well-reviewed when it was released. In The New York Times, Eudora Welty wrote, "As a piece of work it is just about perfect, and just about magical in the way it is done." Aside from its paperback sales, Charlotte's Web is 78th on the all-time bestselling hardback book list. According to publicity for the 2006 film adaptation (see below), the book has sold more than 45 million copies and been translated into 23 languages. It was a Newbery Honors book for 1953, losing to Secret of the Andes by Ann Nolan Clark for the medal. In 1970, White won the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal, a major prize in the field of children's literature, for Charlotte's Web, along with his first children's book, Stuart Little, published in 1945.
Maria Nikolajeva (in her book The Rhetoric of Character in Children's Literature) calls the opening of the novel a failure because of White's begun and then abandoned human dimension involving Fern, which, she says, obscures any allegory to humanity, if one were to view the animals' story as such. Seth Lerer, in his book Children’s Literature, finds that Charlotte represents female authorship and creativity, and compares her to other female characters in children’s literature such as Jo March in Little Women and Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden. Nancy Larrick brings to attention the "startling note of realism" in the opening line, "Where's Papa going with that Ax?"
Illustrator Henry Cole expressed his deep childhood appreciation of the characters and story, and calls Garth Williams' illustrations full of “sensitivity, warmth, humor, and intelligence.” Illustrator Diana Cain Blutenthal states that Williams' illustrations inspired and influenced her.
There is an unabridged audio book read by White himself which reappeared decades after it had originally been recorded. Newsweek writes that White reads the story “without artifice and with a mellow charm,” and that “White also has a plangency that will make you weep, so don’t listen (at least, not to the sad parts) while driving.” Joe Berk, president of Pathway Sound, had recorded Charlotte’s Web with White in White’s neighbor's house in Maine (which Berk describes as an especially memorable experience) and released the book in LP. Bantam released Charlotte’s Web alongside Stuart Little on CD in 1991, digitally remastered, having acquired the two of them for rather a large amount.
In 2005, a school teacher in California conceived of a project for her class in which they would send out hundreds of drawings of spiders (each representing Charlotte’s child Aranea going out into the world so that she can return and tell Wilbur of what she has seen) with accompanying letters; they ended up visiting a large number of parks, monuments and museums, and were hosted by and/or prompted responses from celebrities and politicians such as John Travolta and then First Lady Laura Bush.
Maggie Kneen created full-color illustrations for a couple sections of the novel, which were published in picture book format as Wilbur's Adventure and Some Pig.
Awards and nominations
- Massachusetts Children's Book Award (1984)
- Newbery Honor Book (1953)
- Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal (1970)
- Horn Book Fanfare
Paramount Pictures, with Walden Media, Kerner Entertainment Company, and Nickelodeon Movies, produced a live-action/animated film starring Dakota Fanning as Fern and the voice of Julia Roberts as Charlotte, released on December 15, 2006.
- ↑ http://www.factmonster.com/ipka/A0203050.html
- ↑ "Charlotte A. Cavatica: Bloodthirsty, Wise And True". NPR. Retrieved 2010-09-26.
- ↑ Nordstrom, Ursula (1974-05-12). "Stuart, Wilbur, Charlotte: A Tale of Tales". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-22.
- ↑ White, E. B. (2006). "Authors & illustrators: E. B. White: AUTHOR NOTE: A Letter from E. B. White". harpercollinschildrens.com. HarperCollins Publishers. Retrieved 2009-05-31.
- ↑ Weales, Gerald (1970-05-24). "The Designs of E. B. White". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-22.
- ↑ Elledge, Scott (1984). E. B. White: A Biography. W. W. Norton and Company. ISBN 0-393-01771-0.
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 Neumeyer, Peter F. (1991). "Charlotte, Arachnida: The Scientific Sources". The Lion and the Unicorn 19 (2): 223–221. ISSN 0147-2593.
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 Elledge (1984), p. 295.
- ↑ White, E.B.; Dorothy Lobrano Guth (ed.) (1976). Letters of E.B. White. Harper and Row. pp. 353–354. ISBN 0-06-014601-x Check
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- ↑ White (1976), p. 351.
- ↑ 11.0 11.1 Garfield, Henry (May 2007). "E.B. White’s Web". Bangor-Metro. Retrieved 2009-06-17.
- ↑ The New York Times, October 19, 1952
- ↑ Nikolajeva, Maria (2002). The Rhetoric of Character in Children's Literature. Scarecrow Press. pp. 55–56. ISBN 0-8108-4886-4.
- ↑ Lerer, Seth (2008). Children's Literature. University of Chicago press. pp. 249–251. ISBN 0-226-47300-7.
- ↑ Larrick, Nancy (1982). A Parent's Guide to Children's Reading (Fifth ed.). Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: The Westminster Press. p. 67. ISBN 0-664-32705-2.
- ↑ Cole, Henry (2005). The Art of Reading: Forty Illustrators Celebrate RIF's 40th Anniversary. Compiled by Reading Is Fundamental. Dutton Books. p. 33. ISBN 0-525-47484-6.
- ↑ Bluthental, Diana Cain (2005). The Art of Reading: Forty Illustrators Celebrate RIF's 40th Anniversary. Compiled by Reading Is Fundamental. Dutton Books. p. 30. ISBN 0-525-47484-6.
- ↑ 18.0 18.1 Ames, Katrine; Marc Peyser (1991-12-09). "For Little Pitchers With Big Ears". Newsweek (New York) (24): 79. ISSN 0028-9604. Cite uses deprecated parameter
- ↑ 19.0 19.1 Schnol, Janet; Joanne Tangorra (1991-10-18). "Bantam Releases CD/Cassette of E. B. White Titles". Publishers Weekly 238 (46): 32. ISSN 0000-0019. Cite uses deprecated parameter
- ↑ Kubica, Michael. "Worldly Web: A traveling spider teaches fourth graders the joys of reading, meeting new people, and experiencing new adventures.". Reader’s Digest. The Reader's Digest Association, Inc. Retrieved 2009-05-28.
- ↑ http://www.salemstate.edu/education/mcba Massachusetts Children's awards
- ↑ Newbery Medal Home Page, American Library Association
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