Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Charlotte's Web is 50+ Today

On this day in 1952, one of our most-loved children's books was released. When E.B. White published Charlotte's Web, he had been living on his "Salt Farm" in North Brooklin, Maine for 15 years. His love of the country life is evidenced by these entries from his letters:

Practically the most satisfying thing on earth (specially after fifteen years of trying to put English sentences together against time) is to be able to square off a board of dry white pine, saw to the line (allowing for the thickness of the pencil point) and have the thing fit perfectly.

I am surrounded by hundreds of bottles of new crabapple
jelly, and pears in jars, and ripening cranberries, and turkeys on the hoof, and ducks in the cove, and deer in the alders, and my own mackerel shining in air-tight glory. I wouldn't know what to do with a dollar even if I could remember which pants it was in.
His affection for this life reminds me only too clearly of my years living on the old Shaker place now known as Alasa Farms, located on Sodus Bay, New York, when he says:
the thousand and one exciting little necessities which spring from a 12-room steam-heated house standing all alone in the big world.
The reality of farm life comes alive in the pages of Charlotte's Web as we share the trials and joys with Charlotte and Wilbur. White was never interested in painting a rosy or false picture of the animal world.
My feeling about animals is just the opposite of Disney's. He made them dance to his tune and came up with some great creations, like Donald Duck. I preferred to dance to their tune and came up with Charlotte and Wilbur.
He told a neighbor who wanted to know what he thought about the movie version of Charlotte's Web:
The story is interrupted every few minutes so that somebody can sing a jolly song. I don't care much for jolly songs. The Blue Hill Fair, which I tried to report faithfully in the book, has become a Disney world, with 76 trombones.
White recorded the audiobooks version of his story himself because:
I think a book is better read the way my father used to read books to me -- without drama. He just read the words, beginning with the seductive phrase "Chapter One...."
E.B. White: 1899-1985, he lived on his farm for nearly 50 years.

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