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Is Charlotte's Web The Greatest Children's Book Ever?


"But, Charlotte," said Wilbur, "I'm not terrific." 

That doesn't make a particle of difference," replied Charlotte. "Not a particle. People believe almost anything they see in print." 
Those sentences sum up one virtue of E.B. White's Charlotte's Web. A different sort of book would have had the spider insisting that the pig really was terrific. But Charlotte's Web sits on an unusually even keel. Things are not made to seem a lot better (or worse)  than they really are. White eschewed the ill-advised sunniness of post-war America and of much children's culture. Kids know better. From an early age, they see that things are born and then they die and that life is both marvelous and frightening. 
Charlotte's Web got one of its first good reviews from a similar writer, P.L. Travers, whose Mary Poppins books were far darker than the ill-advisedly sunny movie.
Leave your comments below, e-mail colin@wnpr.org or Tweet us @wnprcolin.

Colin McEnroe is a radio host, newspaper columnist, magazine writer, author, playwright, lecturer, moderator, college instructor and occasional singer. Colin can be reached at colin@ctpublic.org.

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