Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White


April 3, 2017 by Beth - I SNIFF BOOKS blog

I went into Charlotte’s Web fully expecting to love the story. I enjoy reading middle grade books — especially ones featuring animals like The Incredible Journey and Because of Winn Dixie. Alas, me + Charlotte’s Web just wasn’t a book love connection, not even close. I can appreciate that it is a grand story, but I just didn’t get swept away and wasn’t that emotionally invested. (As a side note, my copy happens to be a 60th anniversary edition and the foreword by Kate DiCamillo is just beautiful.)

I don’t think the missed love connection is due to the fact that I’m a thirty-something adult rather than a young child — we all know that sometimes a story is so good, so incredible that it transcends its target age range and be can enjoyed (and cherished) by anyone.

There were definitely parts of the story I really loved — like E.B. White’s descriptions of various places and settings — I really got great imagery in my mind and wanted to be there inside the book.

“The barn was very large. It was very old. It smelled of hay and it smelled of manure. It smelled of the perspiration of tired horses and the wonderful sweet breath of patient cows. It often had a sort of peaceful smell — as though nothing bad could happen ever again in the world. It smelled of grain and of harness dressing and of axle grease and of rubber boots and of new rope. And whenever the cat was given a fish-head to eat, the barn would smell of fish. But mostly it smelled of hay, for there was always hay in the great loft overhead. And there was always hay being pitched down to the cows and the horses and the sheep.” 

But then there were other things I didn’t really like — like the way he would define vocabulary in the text or have a character use a bunch of synonyms to also build vocabulary.

“Will you play with me Templeton?” asked Wilbur.
“Play?” said Templeton, twirling his whiskers. “Play? I hardly know the meaning of the word.”
“Well,” said Wilbur, “it means to have fun, to frolic, to run and skip and make merry.”

Reading Charlotte’s Web was just a strange experience — usually I’m either all in (I love it) or I’m all out (I don’t like it and I DNF the book) — because there were bits I really liked but also plenty of bits I felt quite meh about. I can definitely see why folks love Charlotte’s Web but it just wasn’t that way for me. I fully expected it to be.

What about you? Have you read anything lately that you fully expected to love but did not? Let me know in the comments.

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2 thoughts on “Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

  1. Tammy says:

    Glad to see you reviewing again! I read this book as a kid, actually my father read it to me before bed the first time, and I read it a few times when I began reading. As you said, some parts are good, some fall flat.

    If you like kids books that stand up to adult reading, you might try The Boxcar Children (about a group of children who live in a boxcar. I believe there is a series of books but I’ve only read the first book) or The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, which is currently free on kindle at the moment. These are two books I loved as a child and have read again and again. I read both again last year and still really enjoyed the stories.

    As always, I hesitate to make recommendations, as what one enjoys, another may not. However, these are older books and can be read without significant monetary outlay, which is always a plus in these situations.

    Happy reading (and coloring, if you still do that).

    • Hi Tammy and thanks for stopping by again to leave a comment. And yes, after a much-needed long break, I’m starting to review a bit.

      That’s a sweet memory you have of this book.

      And thank for you for the book recommendations. There are lots of great middle grade books in the public domain that are free in e-book format, A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett (very different from the movie!) is one of my favorites and I have other middle grade books on my shelves that I read again and again.

      Happy reading (and coloring) to you too!

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