Friday, March 27, 2009

Charlotte's Web opens April 10!

The classic story for all ages!

Wilbur: I will love her children and her grandchildren dearly, but none of them will ever take her place in my heart. She was in a class by herself. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.

Elwyn Brooks White’s (1899-1985) contributions to American literature were far from humble; he was both a good writer and a true friend to any reader who sat down to read one of his books. From his longstanding association with The New Yorker magazine and his collections of essays (One Man’s Meat, The Second Tree from the Corner) to his timeless writing manual The Elements of Style (co-written with his college professor William Strunk, Jr.) and many whimsical pieces, White’s prose was consistently thoughtful, humorous, and radiant. White, like Charlotte, was a genuine craftsperson of words.

Each time White sat down at the typewriter, he painstakingly wove the worlds he observed and created into the finest possible web of words. White’s webs were fanciful and delicate enough to allure and trap the reader and strong enough to hold his ideas. He agonizingly spun out draft after draft, ripping imperfections out, weaving in only the most apt thoughts and phrases. As a result, his writing shimmers like one of Charlotte’s best webs. Also like Charlotte, White never lets his readers down.

After writing Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, and The Trumpet of the Swan, White developed a faithful following of young readers. He neither wrote down to children nor altered his style for them. White maintained strong memories of his own youth and knew that children live intense lives in which they harbor curiosity about some of life’s most profound questions. His books for children, and most noticeably among these Charlotte’s Web, reflect this knowledge. As one reviewer wrote, “There’s not much in the book Charlotte’s Web. Only love, death, courage, hate, beauty, friendship, fear, revenge—just everything in life.”

White’s passion for nature is evident in Charlotte’s Web, and this love would not permit him to reshape it to render it more palatable. Not all eggs hatch. Humans do eat and kill animals—though it may not always seem to be fair or savory. Spiders do kill and eat flies—though it may not always seem to be savory or fair. And, as Charlotte says, “… what’s a life anyway? We’re born, we live a little, we die…” In remaining true to his subject, White stays true to himself and his readers. The grounding of Charlotte’s Web in fact enables it to deliver a joyful message. Deep friendship is kissed by immortality, can transcend the death of a true friend, and has the power to create miracles. Although Charlotte cannot be replaced, she will never be forgotten. In addition to treasuring her memory, Wilbur has the further gift of her children. E.B. White will never be forgotten by readers and we have the further gift of his words.

(excerpted from the WFT study guide by Kimberley Elliott and Jeri Hammond)

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