Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Charlotte's Web publication anniversary

It was on this date in 1952 that E B White's novel, Charlotte's Web was published. When it was published, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Eudora Welty said:

The book has liveliness and felicity, tenderness and unexpectedness, grace and humour and praise of life, and the good backbone of succinctness that only the most highly imaginative stories seem to grow... What the book is about is friendship on earth, affection and protection, adventure and miracle, life and death, trust and treachery, pleasure and pain, and the passing of time. As a piece of work it is just about perfect, and just about magical in the way it is done.

The novel tells the story of a spring pig, Wilbur, who has a sweet nature and trusting manner, and his friendship with Charlotte A. Cavitica, a large gray spider who likes to drink blood. The story opens with one of the most famous opening lines in children's liteature: "'Where's Papa going with that axe?'" A line that grabs the reader's attention (as of course is intended) and refuses to let go until the end of the tale is reached. I read this book only a few years ago, as part of the background reading I did for my first ever Harry Potter paper; I had more or less stopped reading children's books by the time I was in my early teens, largely because books for Young Adults didn't really exist, so I moved onto books for adults. When I read Charlotte's Web, I was charmed, moved and delighted by its tale of friendship and intelligence.

There's also a Charlotte's Web film which was made in the 1970s available, but I've not seen it, and a newer version has been made which includes the following stunning cast:

Dakota Fanning - Fern
Julia Roberts - Charlotte (voice)
Oprah Winfrey - Gussy (voice)
Steve Buscemi - Templeton (voice)
Kathy Bates - Bitsy (voice)
John Cleese - Samuel (voice)
Thomas Haden Church - Brooks (voice)
Robert Redford - Ike (voice)
Jennifer Garner - Susy (voice)

I rather think I'll be watching this one, either at the cinema or on DVD in due course !

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I'm off to Gloucestershire for a long weekend with my parents and brother tomorrow, leaving straight after work, so don't expect to hear from me tomorrow.


Camille said...

Interesting note about Charlotte's Web. It did NOT win the Newbery Award the year it was published. It was ONLY a Newbery Honor book. The actual book that won the gold medal that year was Secret of the Andes by Ann Nolan Clark. You've heard of that one haven't you?

So much for awards.

Michele said...

Camille, from the tone of your question, I'm guessing you'd expect me to say I hadn't heard of Secret of the Andes (which sounds like a non-fiction book from its title), even if I were more au fait with children's books than I am ! I guess you just can't tell, sometimes...

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks for reminding us of this great book (and movie)!

Camille said...

You are exactly right. NO ONE has heard of Secret of the Andes, at least not like they have E.B. White's classic. It has a dreary (by today's standards) cover and I could never make it past the first few pages. I had an copy in my library that I used to show (along with Charlotte's Web) when we talked about the Newberys. The kids were always stunned that Charlotte was just the "runner up."

Michele said...

Camille, I can just imagine the kids being stunned... It just goes to show that awards really aren't everything and that it's the test of time that counts most where books are concerned - something the Anti-Tolkien brigade would do well to remember !

Martin, you're welcome for the reminder - enjoy it if you're going to re-read it...