Awards: Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, Newbery Honor Book, Massachusetts Childrens Book Award, Horn Book Fanfare, ALA Notable Children's Book
Genre: Coming of Age/Fiction
Summary: When he was very young, Wilbur was saved from the slaughterhouse by a girl named Fern. From then on Fern and Wilbur were the best of friends. Eventually we see Fern grow up and grow away from Wilbur. Lucky for Wilbur, there happens to be a spider who has made her home up in the barn. Charlotte and Wilbur hit it off and become friends just as Fern befriended Wilbur. As Wilbur grows, the fear of being slaughtered constantly runs through his head. Charlotte is a smart and resourceful spider; she comes up with a way to save Wilbur from his not so happy future!
Audience: 3rd- 12th Grade
Themes: Friendship is the most evident theme throughout the book. Just as we have seen in many of the books we have read. First we see Wilbur and Fern's friendship. It grows and grows until Fern sees herself too old to be playing with a pig anymore. After Fern comes Charlotte. Charlotte though, is the real deal. The friendship Charlotte shows Wilbur is the epitome of what friendship is. She even conspires to save his life.
Another theme that travels a little deeper than friendship, is mortality. In this book, Wilbur has the constant fear of death ingrained in his mind. Wilbur believes the entire book that he will be the one who dies in the end. When the end of the book comes and Wilbur is still alive, readers assume another tragic death will have to take place. Although Charlotte does die, her legacy is carried by her children, which is enough for Wilbur!
"Wilbur didn't want food, he wanted love. He wanted a friend—someone who would play with him."
This quote explains just how badly Wilbur wanted a friend. Oftentimes in elementary and middle school kids may feel like this! A good friend can be hard to come by and that was all Wilbur wanted.
"It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both."
This quote shows Wilbur's admiration for Charlotte. He was so grateful for her friendship and in the end he realizes how great of a friend she truly was to him.
Connections: This book could be used in many ways in the classroom. It teaches many lessons about life and friendship. Many of these lessons could be applicable to even high school students. It is a classic and has the ability to be used throughout all grade levels.
Reactions: This is one of my absolute favorite books. The message of friendship, loyalty and even mortality are themes that transcend through years and years of readers. This book provides such a simple and sweet story that teaches deep lessons as well.
"Not only does CHARLOTTE'S WEB feature one of the most ingenious plots in all of literature, its prose is breathtaking." -Stephanie
"This classic children's tale deserves 5 stars for story craft and language usage alone! The fact that it's a heart-warmer/wrencher clinches it. Never was I made to love pigs and spiders so much in my life." -Jason
Links: E.B. White Scholastic Site