Wilbur, Fern and a very smart spider star in ‘Charlotte’s Web’

Perusing through the books at the thrift store and came across a classic: “Charlotte’s Web,” by E.B. White, published in 1952. It was a 60th anniversary edition, very nice, so I paid a few dollars with the thought I would send it to my 5-year-old granddaughter, Hadley, who unlike her grandfather is extremely bright and smart. I was pretty happy with myself when I called her mom about this, only to be told, unfortunately, that Hadley already had Charlotte’s Web and had read it.

Which turned out to be a good thing.

Because I then decided I should read this book, again. It had been decades since I read what I considered one of the greatest stories ever written. It’s really quite a beautiful use of words — nothing too fancy. Nothing overblown. Just good, straight storytelling wonderfully written, as you would expect from tale about a good-hearted pig named Wilbur, a clever and caring spider named Charlotte, and a delightful, innocent girl named Fern. Life in a barn is good.

The story unfolds as Charlotte does something extraordinary to save the life of Wilbur, who was doomed to go the way all pigs go before Charlotte wrote the words “Some Pig” in her web above Wilbur. This set off a series of events that led to something magical and a happy ending. A pig discovered joy and kindness.

This book is one of my all-time favorites. It’s an easy read as it takes you along on a trip back to childhood when life was free and fun and kids discovered so much adventure inside a barn.

I can’t claim to have grown up on a farm. We visited one often when we went to Montana, where my mother grew up. The barn was where we battled at basketball for hours. We didn’t speak to the pigs or spiders or horses. But we did see them. Perhaps they spoke to us and we just didn’t understand.

This is one of my favorite passages, near the end, from “Charlotte’s Web:”

“Mr. Zuckerman took fine care of Wilbur all the rest of his days, and the pig was often visited by friends and admirers, for nobody ever forgot the year of his triumph and miracle of the web. Life in the barn was very good — night and day, winter and summer, spring and fall, dull days and bright days. It was the best place to be, thought Wilbur, this warm, delicious cellar, with the garrulous geese, the changing seasons, the heat of the sun, the passage of swallows, the nearness of rats, the sameness of sheep, the love of spiders, the smell of manure, and the glory of everything.”

The glory of everything. The glory of everything. Who sees the glory of everything? We could. It’s there. If only we all had friends like Charlotte who showed us what the world could be like if we looked at it from a spider’s perspective. Or even, a pig’s.

Simpler days indeed.

If anyone wants this book, I’ll gladly let you have it. This is a story that must be shared.

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Bill Buley, editor-in-chief, can be reached at 245-0457 or bbuley@thegardenisland.com.

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