Charlotte's Web

 
Gentle, much-loved classic delights all ages.
Newbery Medal and Honors

What parents need to know

Educational value

Readers will learn a lot through this book's messages and may be inspired to read more children's classics or other books by E.B. White, such as Stuart Little. They'll also learn from Charlotte what a "Magnum Opus" is. 

Positive messages

This book celebrates the power of friendship and love -- and even that death is a part of life. All these messages are beautifully conveyed in a way that kids will understand and be moved by.

Positive role models

Charlotte is selfless and kind, working hard to protect Wilbur. Wilbur in turn repays the favor when she needs him. Fern also takes good care of Wilbur when he's a baby and is a good friend to him through her childhood.

Violence & scariness

A very sad death. Plus, Wilbur is almost killed when he is born because he's a runt -- and he worries about his own death on the farm when he learns what happens to a spring pig.

Language
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that E.B. White's children's classic begins with the main character's (a young pig) near slaughter by a farmer; Wilbur also learns that he's to be eaten for Christmas dinner. A major character dies, peacefully but alone -- all children (and most adults) will cry. All readers will also be reminded about what it means to be a good friend and be inspired by the book's messages about the power of love. The audiobook is lovingly read by the author.

What's the story?

When Fern convinces her father not to kill the runt pig of the litter, she names him Wilbur and raises him with a bottle. Soon Wilbur goes to live in her Uncle Homer Zuckerman's barn down the road, where she visits him every day. But when she's not there, Wilbur is lonely -- the sheep, cows, geese, and even the rats don't want to play and be his friend. Then he meets Charlotte, a gray spider whose web is in a corner of the barn door, and they become good friends. But soon after, they learn that Wilbur is to be slaughtered next Christmas to make ham and bacon. So Charlotte hatches a plan to make the Zuckermans want to keep Wilbur around forever.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

One of the all-time great classics of children's literature, this gentle story with its kindly wisdom about friendship and love has survived and prospered even in the digital age because its themes are universal and timeless: It will inspire readers to think about how we should make and keep friends, and how we should treat each other. Though most readers will cry near the end, it's never maudlin or sappy. Indeed, it's New Yorker editor and author E.B. White's avoidance of cuteness, astringent prose, whimsical humor, and matter-of-factness about life-and-death issues that sets CHARLOTTE'S WEB apart from the pack.

His heroine is a hairy spider who sucks the blood out of flies, aided by a rat, and they're working to save Wilbur from the reality of every working barn. Kind people can be ugly and sometimes cruel, others can be greedy but helpful, snooty but caring. The world can be harsh but also beautiful and warm. It's a lovely fantasy grounded in reality, and perhaps that's why kids have loved it for so long -- they know when they're being told the truth.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the various concepts of friendship presented here. Charlotte obviously gives a lot in this relationship -- what does she get in return? How does Fern and Wilbur's relationship change? 

  • Charlotte's Web was published in the 1950s and is considered a children's classic. Why do you think it continues to be so popular with readers? What other books have you read that you think are -- or should be -- classics?

Book details

Author:E.B. White
Illustrator:Garth Williams
Genre:Fantasy
Topics:Horses and farm animals
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:HarperCollins Children's Books
Publication date:October 15, 1952
Number of pages:184
Read aloud:5
Read alone:7
Award:Newbery Medal and Honors

This review of Charlotte's Web was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Parent of a 14 year old Written bynoorisusan October 10, 2010
age 5+
 

5 ages an up

LOVE IT!
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Teen, 13 years old Written bySkype272 October 28, 2010
age 5+
 

Good book for the young and old.

It is a good book for the young and old. A Classic tale that can be read to all book lovers and non readers alike. With many twists and turns with a touching morale But personally: This book may be a little to childish to some.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Educator and Parent Written byDadaNick45 January 28, 2011
age 6+
 

be careful if your children have sensitivity toward animals

Wonderful book but be sure that your children are at an age where they understand the beginning and where Wilbur was almost killed. This could set the tone for a negative reading experience.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models

Poll

Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Digital Compass