Monday, March 27, 2017

Reading Charlotte's Web as an Adult

Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
Date: 1952
Format: B&N collectible edition (omnibus)
How did I get this book? purchased
Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Charlotte's Web is one of the (many) classics I can't believe I never read as a kid. In fact, there are A LOT of classic children's books (chapter books, novels, and picture books) I "missed" growing up. Even some I may have read, I unfortunately don't recall very well. But instead of looking at them as missed chances, I'm taking the opportunity now to enjoy them as an adult -- and hopefully someday share them with my son. With that in mind, some months back, I revised my Classics Club list to focus on children's classics. Finally reading Charlotte's Web confirms this was a wise decision for me at this stage in my life.

Sure, there are plenty of more "difficult" classics I aspire to tackling someday, but that really isn't where my head is at right now. It's not just that children's classics are "easier" or shorter, though they often are -- and my tired mommy-brain is grateful! Wanting to focus on children's books is more about my frame of mind and priorities right now. Diving head first into picture books with my son as an infant, baby, and now toddler has reminded me how rich and engaging good children's literature can be. So many of these stories (and their artwork!) can be enjoyed by people of all ages, even if they aren't the first thing we might gravitate to as a "grown-ups."

My son may still be too young to appreciate a lot of the books I've been picking up lately, but that's not really the point. The point is that the more I learn about children's books, the more I want to experience them for myself and fill in some of the gaps in my own childhood reading. I know my parents took me to the library and read me picture books, but mostly I just remember reading Nancy Drew, The Babysitters Club, spooky books by Mary Downing Hahn, and the occasional school assignment I actually enjoyed, but that was later in my childhood. I remember my highschool reading vividly, but my younger years are understandably a bit foggy. So why not read those children's classics now? There is no good reason not to read them now, so that is exactly what I am doing and I'm really loving it.

The only (sort-of) downside to reading these childhood classics now is that there isn't any of the nostalgia factor. Charlotte's Web likely would have gotten 5 stars if I had read it as a child, but it was still a very well-written, engaging, and enjoyable story about friendship, determination, and loss. I never was much a fan of spiders, but this fictional tale has helped this scaredy-cat look at them a bit differently and reminded me of their purpose in the natural world. I appreciated that this story didn't sugarcoat some of the harsher realities of life and death on a farm, but it is ultimately a hopeful and uplifting book. It didn't turn me into a vegetarian, though at times I was wondering if the author was trying to! More E.B. White books are on my TBR for sure, namely Stuart Little and The Trumpet of the Swan -- both of which are also in the omnibus edition I read Charlotte's Web from.

In addition to the story, the illustrations for Charlotte's Web are just wonderful and I am fast becoming a fan of Garth Williams' work. Our bookshelves and library basket are filling up with his many picture books and we've found a few new favorites. My son and I have both enjoyed My First Counting Book and Home for a Bunny in particular and look forward to exploring more of this prolific illustrator's books.


16 comments:

  1. I read this book many times as a child. Some of the challenges I joined this year require reading a "book from your childhood," "a book you loved as child," and other similar categories. This is one book I may consider for those. Either this or the "little House" series, another series I read over and over as a child.

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    1. Those would both be great for those categories! I read a couple of Little House books as a kid and would like to read the whole series someday as an adult too.

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  2. I devoured all of the classics you mentioned and then dove straight into adult classics. Of course, Nancy Drew, Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes and the Hardy Boys were favs. I am looking forward to rereading them with the grands, as I did my own children. Don't forget Anne of Green Gables and Little House on the Prairie...more favs

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    1. Those two series are on my TBR for sure! I can't quite decide which I want to dive into first though :)

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  3. You never read Charlotte's Web?!?!?! I know, I shouldn't be so shocked, I have plenty of my own blind spots (Anne of Green Gables). I just have SUCH good memories of that book. It's how I learned how to spell "terrific" and that 3x7=21. And then of course there was the day that we watched the animated movie in class and I bawled all through the ending. Ah... good times.

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    1. I know, I know! Anne is a blindspot for me too. So many on my TBR that I never read as a kid!

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  4. Nostalgia is definitely a factor. I read the Little House series for the first time just last year, and I was kind of "meh" about them. If I had read them first as a kid, I'm sure I would have an entirely different opinion. You'll be giving those kid-experiences to your little boy though, so that's good!

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    1. I read a few Little House books in grade school, but never the whole series. I did recently buy a set from Book Outlet -- the full color illustrations (and the Newbery titles) pulled me in! I do like to think of all my kid lit reading as "research" for helping my kiddo pick books later on, whether on his own or to read together. Though, of course, I'm sure he won't end up liking anything I like -- haha!

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  5. I absolutely loved this book as a child. What a great idea to re -read as an adult. Thanks for the fond memories!

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  6. I've never read the book as a child either and have no great desire to do so now because I have watched the movie with my kids. How do you think the movie matches up with the book?

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    1. I actually have never seen the movie (to the best of my memory), so I'm not sure! I've heard it's pretty well done though. The book was really good though and would probably be a good read-aloud if your kids like the story from the movie.

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  7. Oddly, I never read this as a child but read it a few years ago. I thought it was okay but not as good as some other children's books I've reread recently.

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    1. I can totally see that! Though I was very engaged as I was reading. I've read a few others I enjoyed, but they didn't keep me turning the pages like this one. They all have their strengths and weaknesses, I suppose!

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  8. I'm delighted this children's classic holds up to an adult read (I'm planning to reread it on Classics Club list II).

    I used to be a preschool teacher and my blog has several pages devoted to children's books if you're looking for inspiration :-)

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    1. A Classics Club II list? Nice! I am closing in on the end of my first 5 years and I'm not sure I'll quite make it. But joining again with a new list does sound like a fantastic idea :)

      And I will have to check those out! I've gone down a kid lit rabbit hole lately, and am thoroughly enjoying myself :)

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I'd love to hear what you think :)