One of my absolute favorite children’s books is Charlotte’s Web. It is a fun book, with a lot of adventure, but some very real lessons in the book about the life cycle, including death. It is a story that follows a pig named Wilbur and before he is slaughtered he is saved by a young girl named Fern. Then a black spider named Charlotte becomes Wilbur’s mentor, and she protects, educates, and loves him. Charlotte has to write messages in her web about Wilbur to save him from being slaughtered for Christmas dinner. This story uses the narratives from both the human voice and the animals, so you get a perception of what is occurring on the whole farm. E.B. White does a wonderful job of showing how life goes on when someone/something dies, and that we can keep our loved ones in our memories, and never forget them, but still be happy.
I also love this book because of the distinct personalities of the main animal characters, such as the goose, Templeton the rat, Charlotte the spider, and Wilbur the pig. Each plays an intriguing role and adds their own flare to the mix of the dysfunctional farm.
I remember reading this book when I was younger a few times, and could see myself incorporating it into my own classroom someday. I would probably use this book for grades 3-6, because some of the themes are a little bit more advanced, and younger kids may simply enjoy the story of the animals talking, but not truly see the deeper topics involved. I know that rereading this as an adult, I was still picking up on new themes throughout the story, so this book can truly be enjoyed by anyone.
What I feel I could also do with this book in classroom is have my students pick a different setting than a farm, (forest, swamp, jungle, desert, etc) and write about animals interacting there, and write about the challenges they face in that particular environment. Because Charlotte’s Web leaves a lot to the imagination for the reader, by allowing a child to imagine the farm, what the animals look like, and how they sound, they would be able to expand that creativity by writing their own stories.
I would highly recommend this book to elementary school teachers who are talking about animals, or even the life cycle, and what death means. Charlotte’s Web has deep topics, but humorous lines throughout the story.