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Charlotte's Web | Class #6, fall 2017

During our last class meeting (November 15), our mock book award committees will meet, discuss, and vote. We have three Caldecott committees, one Geisel committee, and one Sibert. We try to make the experience as authentic as possible, which means bringing in snacks (a key part of my own award experiences) and we follow ALA/ALSC's terms and criteria when discussing each book, voting, and choosing honor books. I'll post the results here sometime after the 15th.

In preparing for mock awards, I highly recommend these two Horn Book articles:

For this class's reading assignment, it's Charlotte's Web. In my opinion, this classic children's books truly deserves its status. It also fits in with our award theme because it did not win the Newbery in 1953 — though it was an honor book. If this was your first read, what did you think? Did it live up to its reputation? If this was a re-read, what did you notice this time that you might have missed before?

Finally, we're reading an article about E. B. White from the Smithsonian Magazine website that sheds light on the origins of this book. We'll discuss both the book and the article in the comments of this post.

 

Lolly Robinson
Lolly Robinson is the creative director for The Horn Book, Inc. She has degrees in studio art and children's literature and teaches children's literature at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education. She has served on the Caldecott and Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committees and blogs for Calling Caldecott and Lolly's Classroom on this site.
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Jen Curtis

Like many students in the class, I was introduced to Charlotte's Web as a child. My mom read it aloud to me, and remains a passionate E.B. White fan. For this reason, I was so excited to return to the book. I was surprised at how slowly I read the book, however. There were so many moments I was converted into a lazy reader, wanted to skip over sections, despite the fact I normally savior long descriptions. The book is undoubtedly beautiful, and the character of Charlotte sharp and wise, but the plot itself was quite slow for me, and I found myself wondering how engaging it would be for students today. Perhaps it had something to do with the farm setting, but it felt much more dated than the other books on the syllabus.

Posted : Nov 15, 2017 07:02


Arlyn Madsen-Bond

I always loved Charlotte's Web! I especially enjoyed rereading it as an adult. I read this blog about adults rereading children's books: https://www.forbes.com/sites/booked/2010/06/28/charlottes-web-the-bfg-why-adults-read-childrens-books/#54d6ba815cbd One quote that I really resonated with was "I guess that is another mark of a good book–every time you read it, you glean something new. I was close to tears when Charlotte finally died all alone at the empty fairground. It wasn't her death that got to me, like it did back in grade school. It was the the fact that she was alone that did."

Posted : Nov 14, 2017 05:38


Camila Garcia Enriquez

Charlotte's Web is a story that I did not grow up reading because it is not part of my country's culture, but I had had the opportunity to watch the movie when I was a kid. Reading the actual novel now was an amazing experience: I am not a literacy specialist and I feel I can only comment on the value of the story and its messages, but not necessarily the literary form. I feel this is one of those stories that are relevant past the time of their publication. I love how empathy and friendship are explored here, and the value that is placed on verbal messages to save Wilbur. I also found it telling to show that it is animals savings themselves here, with people being the menace. It is even more revealing to me to see that it was not that Wilbur's owner started to grow fond of Wilbur, considered him a pet, or even cared for Wilbur's feelings that Wilbur avoided being slaughtered, but instead the fact that Wilbur appeared to have value.

Posted : Nov 14, 2017 04:30


Charles

I loved this book and agree with my peers who point out Charlotte's Webb is a children's book, that people of all ages can appreciate. I tend to place it in category of children's novels with books like A Day No Pigs Would Die, My Family and other Animals, and Animal Farm, although there are vast differences, there's some reoccurring themes. In addition, I found Schama's Smithsonian piece about E.B. White really cool because it brought in bit and pieces of the author's life and budding relationship with nature. In thinking about the lake house, I remember and essay from the Best American Essays of the Century compilation, called "Once More to The Lake". Also, as a lifelong New Yorker, I often references his famous piece "Here is New York" which still resonates today. He truly loved animals, but to call compare him to Thoreau, may have been a stretch :)

Posted : Nov 14, 2017 04:14


Damina

Reading Charlotte’s Web reminded me of the stories that my grandmother would narrate to me growing up. These stories were a part of her tradition’s oral history, and they often featured friendships between people, plants and animals. There was always a sense of unity in her stories, and an understanding that while life is often a struggle for all, we can always rely on goodness – and good companionship, to pull through. This theme resonated very clearly in Charlotte’s Web. I enjoyed E.B. White’s characterization of animals, which awarded them a sense of character and agency, and therefore a relatability to the reader. His tender portrayal of how the characters felt and interacted with each other was also particularly touching.

Posted : Nov 14, 2017 03:36


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