Charlotte’s Web

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Title: Charlotte’s Web Author: E.B.White 
Illustrator: Garth Williams
Publisher: New York:  Harper & Row Publishers, Inc.

Genre: Modern Fantasy Level: middle/intermediate Number of pages: 184 Pub. Date: 1952

Summary : A young girl named Fern saves a pig named Wilbur.  He lives on Zuckerman’s Farm where he meets Charlotte a grey spider.  Charlotte befriends Wilber and creates a plan to save him by writing in her web.  Wilber is awarded a special medal at the fair and his life is saved.  Charlotte dies alone but 3 of her children live on in the barn as Wilber’s friends.

Critique The setting is realistic; the barn is a real place.  The characters, particularly Fern and Charlotte, grow and change over the course of the narrative.  This story falls into “becoming one’s own person” category of realistic fiction.  There are elements of fantasy in this story.  The animals in Zuckerman’s barn can talk to each other and Fern can hear them; the author continually makes this fantastic element believable.

Response:

The part of this book that I reacted to the most was when Charlotte dies. Particularly when EB White tells us that “ No one was with her [Charlotte] when she died” (171). This part speaks to the humanity in all of us. Charlotte is a human character who is a true friend to Wilbur. Because of these characteristics it makes it more relatable for the reader.  This humanity makes Charlotte’s Web a great story but it also makes it that much more upsetting when Charlotte passes away. I feel like everybody can relate to losing someone, or something close to you. For me Charlotte’s death reminds me of losing my cat, Spike. However, I know for some students it will remind them of losing a grandparent, parent or friend. I think this book does a good job of bringing up the idea of life and death in a way that allows for conversation.

Assignments:

Before:  Students will predict what they think the story is going to be about based on the art of the cover.

During: Students can pick one scene from the book and do a small picture book without staples of what happened in the scene

After: Students will be given fake spider webs and a piece of black paper and asked to make a web describing the book. For example: the teacher’s web could say heart warming.

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