Still caught up in the excitement that there is now more to Bear's reading than Tintin, Asterisk, Calvin and Hobbes, Geronimo Stilton, Kzone and DC Kids—I am reading my own First Chapter-Book-of-Note to him and his sister…
I am not exaggerating when I say this is my First True Literary Love. The book that started my love affair with books. The one that made me realize words on a page can make you cry, crush your heart and put a knot in your stomach.
I was in the third grade when Charlotte's Web hit me. I even remember the day my Tita got it for me at the huge Barnes and Noble in the now gone World Trade Center. After tagging along on a Saturday morning to her office, we stopped by the bookstore and as a treat I got a pencil box in my then favorite color Lavender and the E.B.White classic which I ended up reading all the way until Sunday.
Flash forward to decades later. Now I am relishing moments reading E.B White's words to two curious children who are loving the story, so far. We're not done yet. I wonder how they will they take the ending! Meanwhile, I look forward to nighttime when we cuddle up in bed and I get to read them beautifully-wrought lines and dialogue like these…
* * *
The crickets felt it was their duty to warn everybody that summertime cannot last forever. Even on the most beautiful days in the whole year—the days when summer is changing into fall—the crickets spread the rumor of sadness and change.
* * *
"When the words appeared, everyone said they were a miracle. But nobody pointed out that the web itself is a miracle."
"What's miraculous about a spider's web?" said Mrs. Arable. "I don't see why you say a web is a miracle—it's just a web."
"Ever try to spin one?" asked Dr. Dorian.
Mrs. Arable shifted uneasily in her chair. "No," she replied. "But I can crochet a doily and I can knit a sock."
"Sure," said the doctor. "But somebody taught you, didn't they?"
"My mother taught me."
"Well, who taught a spider? A young spider knows how to spin a web without any instructions from anybody. Don't you regard that as a miracle?"
"I suppose so," said Mrs. Arable. "I never looked at it that way before. Still, I don't understand how those words got into the web. I don't understand it, and I don't like what I don't understand."
"None of us do," said Dr. Dorian sighing. "I'm a doctor. Doctors are supposed to understand everything. But I don't understand everything, and I don't intend to let it worry me."
* * *
Mrs. Arable fidgeted. "Fern says the animals talk to each other Dr. Dorian, do you believe animals talk?"
"I never heard one say anything," he replied. "But that proves nothing. It is possible an animal has spoken civilly to me and that I didn't catch the remark because I wasn't paying attention. Children pay better attention than grownups. If Fern says that the animals in Zuckerman's barn talk, I'm quite ready to believe her."
* * *
"Let Fern associate with her friends in the barn if she wants to. I would say, offhand, that spiders and pigs were fully as interesting as Henry Fussy. Yet I predict that the day will come when even Henry will drop some chance remark that catches Fern's attention. It's amazing how children change from year to year."
* * *
My nightly readings have made me realize this book is not just a classic, it's a classic that's great to read aloud. Revisiting Charlotte, Wilbur, the Zuckerman barn and the Arables with my own little boy and girl currently tops my list of Simple Joys.
I love you E.B. White... you and your elegant prose and existential truths in a most touching and riveting story that is Charlotte’s Web.