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Charlotte's Web

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
Charlotte's Web Book Poster Image
Gentle, much-loved barnyard classic delights all ages.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 6+
Based on 33 reviews

Kids say

age 7+
Based on 53 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

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 & Representations

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

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that E.B. White's children's classic begins with the main character (a young pig) nearly being slaughtered by a farmer. Wilbur also learns that he's to be eaten for Christmas dinner. When 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 14 year old Written bynoorisusan October 10, 2010
Parent Written byDadaNick45 January 28, 2011

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... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bySkype272 October 28, 2010

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 mo... Continue reading
Kid, 9 years old June 20, 2010

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?

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. That's 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.

Talk to your kids 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

Themes & Topics

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