REVIEW: Charlotte’s Web by E B White

Dear Mr Elwyn Brookes White,

It appears I owe you an apology. I have spent the last 50 years thinking you were a woman who was probably called Elizabeth. I have no idea why. I am sincerely sorry.

So it turns out the author of this hugely popular children’s classic is not a woman after all. I have no idea why I decided he was. But I am now enlightened. E B White, author of Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little (I didn’t know that either) is a man. At least he was, he died in 1985 so my apology comes a little late.

Charlotte’s Web is a classic of children’s literature and one I read many times as a child.

Ferne, a farmer’s daughter, desperately wants one of the new piglets for her own and her father gives her the runt of the litter to rear. He is called Wilbur. Ferne raises him in the house until he is too big and eventually Wilbur is sold to Ferne’s uncle.

Ferne them spends all her time at her uncle’s farm as Wilbur tries and fails to make friends with the other animals and settles into his new home.

Soon after Wilbur befriends Charlotte, a barn spider who has set up web in the corner, he learns that Ferne’s uncle intends to kill him for dinner and asks Charlotte help him come up with a plan to save his life.

After deliberating very carefully, Charlotte decides the only way is to make Wilbur famous because no one would kill off a famous pig. And she comes up with an idea that will make Wilbur the most famous pig in the region.

Does it work? Well if you don’t know already, you should read the book and find out.

This is an absolute classic of a book, a beautiful ageless tale of love and loss and helping one another. Charlotte is a genius, obviously, and it is lovely that the really clever idea to save Wilber comes from a female.

It’s sad and poignant but has an overarching message of hope.

And it has very much stood the test of time, having been published around 70 years ago.

It’s a lovely, lovely book and every home – with or without children – should have a well-thumbed copy.

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