Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Reading Charlotte's Web

For the past two weeks, my daughter, Hannah, and I have read Charlotte’s Web. Earlier this year the two of us formed our own book club. She chooses a book for us to read and then I choose one. We read the books individually and then talk about them with each other.

Charlotte’s Web is a children’s book that all ages can enjoy. The writing by E.B. White is spectacular. The book is worth reading again just to savor how White puts words together.

The book has sold over 45 million copies since being published in 1952 and has been translated into 23 languages. It is 78th on the all-time bestselling hardback book list.

Reading Charlotte’s Web reminded me how each of us has a history with books. I first became acquainted with Charlotte’s Web when my third grade teacher at West Elementary School in Worthington, Minnesota read it to us. Each day she would gather us together and read a chapter. When I first heard a description of Zuckerman’s farm an image of a farm next to my grandparent’s farm came to mind. When I think of Wilbur and Charlotte and the animals in the barn I think of the barn on this farm.

I became immersed in the story when Amy & I bought the video of Charlotte’s Web for Hannah. We must have watched the video close to 50 times.

The tone of the book is so delicious. E.B. White presents a world that revolves around the seasons. The pressure of 21st century life is absent—he probably couldn’t have imagined a life like we have. It’s a life where joy comes in observing the changes in nature; of sitting in the barn and talking to the animals; of swinging on a rope attached to the barn ceiling. No Internet, I-Phones, Facebook, cable television. Entertainment is observing what nature shares.

E. B. White presented simple and powerful images of a culture that we have lost. Read how he described the County Fair:
“After the heat of the day, the evening came as a welcome relief to all. The Ferris wheel was lighted now. It went round and round in the sky and seemed twice as high as the day. There were lights on the midway, and you could hear the crackle of the gambling machines and the music of the merry-go-round and the voice of the man in the beano booth calling numbers.”

Writing that paragraph brought back many memories of my attending the Nobles County Fair.

I encourage everyone to read a chapter a day from Charlotte’s Web. For 22 days you’ll be taken away to a world that we don’t want to forget.

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