Saturday, March 6, 2010

Charlotte's Web

By Keith Fisher
Do you have any idea how many books there are, written by dead authors? Me neither. In trying to decide which one to read first, I stumbled on an old copy of Charlotte’s Web. I had seen the animated movie, but never read the book, so why not?

This book published in 1952, was the second children’s book by Elwyn Brooks White (E B White). His first success was Stuart Little. Yes, they made a movie of that one too. The author died 1985 and spent most of his life on staff at The New Yorker magazine.

Charlotte’s Web is a wonderful, feel good story, and I recommend it for every adult, as well as child reader. It won’t wow you, with magic, or exotic worlds. (Unless you consider farm life an exotic world).

The author shows a brief snip of what life was like in the late forties and fifties in rural America. He also does a great job of giving personalities to farm animals. The reader can’t help but be elated when the pig character is reprieved. They will feel sadness when Charlotte moves on, after providing for her children in the great circle of life.

This book, from a writer’s prospective, might not have been published today. It was written, and published, during a time when telling a good story was more important than the craft of writing, but White did a great job of both. Charlotte’s Web is a masterful example of writing in third person omniscient and jumps in and out of characters heads enough to keep the reader guessing. There were, however, a few times when I would’ve preferred to stay in Wilbur’s head.

With that said, perhaps you should also know, this author is the same E B White who edited and updated his college professor’s book. It became The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. It has been a treasured handbook for many writers.

If you want to get lost in a bygone world and learn a lesson about point of view, sneak into your children’s book collection. Tell your kids you’re doing research and ask them if you can read it to them.


Kimberly Job said...

Wow! Lots of things I didn't know. I'll have to take a look at the book to read the 3rd person omniscient POV.

L.T. Elliot said...

I had no idea he was the same White of Strunk and White! And I love Charlotte's Web! And Stuart Little! You picked a winner, Keith. =]