Tuesday, April 24, 2012

'Charlotte's Web': A classic turns 60

One of America's most beloved children's books, "Charlotte's Web," marks its 60th anniversary this year. The New York Times on Sunday published a lovely piece by Michael Sims describing how E.B. White came to write the book. Sims is the author of "The Story of Charlotte's Web."

"Charlotte's Web" has always been one of my favorites, but I worry my college-aged children don't feel the same way. And worse, I think this is because of me.

Years ago, when I read the book to them, I'd invariably choke up at the line: "No one was with her when she died."

Then I'd choke up again when Wilbur met Charlotte's newly hatched babies and announced: "I am an old friend of your mother."

My chin would quiver. My throat would catch. My kids would exhibit low-level horror and embarrassment. Today, their memories of "Charlotte's Web" may not be of White's crystalline prose, but of their unstable mother.

What I hope they remember is the final passage, which is my favorite: "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."

Just an aside, does anyone else get weepy reading this book?