Taking a break from series in the ‘books to read aloud’ series, today I bring you a single volume book: Charlotte’s Web. Many of you will have read this yourselves as children, as may have your parents: it was originally published in 1952.
It is the story of Wilbur, a runt pig saved from an early death by a young girl Fern and raised on a barn. Even amongst the other animals on the farm, Wilbur is lonely and becomes friends with Charlotte, a large grey spider. When Wilbur discovers than most pigs end up on the dinner table, he is traumatised, until Charlotte promises to save his life by writing messages about him in her web. What ensues is a lovely story of friendship, animals that talk (which Fern can understand), farm life and fun. When Charlotte dies towards the end, our children have been quite moved and yet love to hear of her babies hatching in the final chapter.
We have found about age 8 is perfect for this book, it captures their imagination (animals talking!) and the story keeps moving with interest. There are serious things at stake (Wilbur could still be made into dinner), and I think for many children who often are fearful of spiders, it’s a lovely way of learning about arachnids that opens up their minds to their positive traits.
When finished it provides a great entree into a family movie night with the 2006 movie by Paramount pictures with Dakota Fanning as Fern and the voice of Julia Roberts as Charlotte. It’s a lovely film version, suitable for the whole family.