Thursday, August 7, 2008

Charlotte -- the kind of mom you cry for

For a few weeks now Will (my nearly 4-year-old) and I have been dividing much of our reading time between E.B. White’s “The Trumpet of the Swan” and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House on the Prairie.” (I’m more of a one-book-at-time kind of reader, but Will’s in charge when it comes to book selection. We always read what he wants and he chooses the book he’s in the mood for.)

In any case, one of the luxuries of having graduated to chapter-book reading is that I’m enjoying the stories so much too. And for now anyway, E.B. White is my favorite children’s author – he can turn a phrase, be inventive and silly, and infuse his animals with real recognizable human-like qualities.
So when I heard on the radio Monday that NPR commentator and mother Melissa Block had chosen Charlotte A. Cavatica, heroine of E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web for an NPR “In Character” essay, I knew I was in for a good time.

I’m not sure I’d recognized just how much I had also fallen for Charlotte until I heard this piece. Charlotte is, after all, the quintessential mother – wise, gracious and selfless -- she’s determined to mother a pig by creatively saving his life and she’s happy to die for her own brood of spider babies that arrive at the end of the book. The highlight of this story of Charlotte is listening to E.B. White read his own prose -- and learning that he broke down 17 times while trying to read her death scene for an audio-version of the book before he could compose himself enough for a steady-voiced take.

If you’ve read Charlotte’s Web, be sure to take a listen here. And if you haven’t, put it on your read-aloud list -- for children ages 3 to 90.

1 comment:

shannon said...

Thank you, Annie. I have many spiders in my house (the bug spray doesn't kill them, thank goodness). I love them, all varied and quiet and all. Just this morning, I saw a web attached to a window, on the outside and admired its intricate beauty, and thought of Charlotte herself and all her kindness. And, anyway, how could anyone kill a spider after reading (or seeing) James and the Giant Peach's opening scene with the horrific aunts trying to kill a boy's only friend, a spider?