Sunday, April 8, 2012

Read Along on I-94 - Rereading Part 2 - Charlotte's Web (1/2)

It's A-Okay to Reread in April and Colby is rereading along with me this month. He picked some great books for us to reread in April. Last week we talked about one of our all-time favorites, I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen. This week and next week we'll be talking about Charlotte's Web by E.B. White. We hope you join us in our discussions or in rereading in April!

COLBY: Do you remember the first time you read Charlotte’s Web?

JEN: I don’t! I remember reading it but I can’t remember how old I was or if I read it to myself or if someone read it to me. But I remember the story.

COLBY: I remember my third grade teacher, Ms. Frey read it to our class as a read aloud. I thought it was going to be so stupid, but it ended up being my second favorite read aloud, Hatchet is of course number one, that I experienced as a child.

JEN: I vividly remember Charlotte saying “Salutations!” to Wilbur. Charlotte uses such big words and seemed to regal and sophisticated compared to the other animals. I remember all the big words in the book so I wonder if it was a read aloud with my class but I really cannot remember!

COLBY: Okay, my plan was to read half of Charlotte’s Web before we started this chat. I failed. I just had to read the whole darn thing in basically one sitting. We have lots to talk about, but first I’d like to say that I think Charlotte’s Web is one of the top 5 books ever written for elementary school children. It’s that good. WOW!

JEN: I read the first chapter with two students this week but I’m still reading one of my adult rereads for April so I hadn’t focused too much on reading Charlotte’s Web. I decided to reread it by listening to the audiobook. I was kind of excited to listen to it anyway because it’s read by E.B. White himself. I love listening to an author read his or her own book. I seriously had no idea E.B. White was a man. (I’m on the third of three CDs, by the way.)

I agree that it’s a great book for elementary students but my perspective is a little bit different reading it now though because I am so aware of how rare farms like the Zuckerman’s are in today’s world. It makes me a sad to think of how farms are so different. It’s a great story but I keep thinking about how it might give kids a false idea of what farms are like. It’s my grown-up mentality stepping in. I found myself trying to talk to my students about how bacon comes from pigs and about how animals are raised and then slaughtered. In a way I felt like I was bursting their little bubble-worlds but at the same time it was a natural conversation to have with them because it made sense as we discussed the book.

COLBY: I never in a million years would have thought about how farms are different in the world we live in today from the Zuckerman’s farm. Every year my students and I go on a field trip where high school students tell them about farming. We visit about 20 stations where we visit: various animals, farm equipment, and model farms. The farms we learn about are similar to the Zuckerman’s just a little bigger.

JEN: I won’t get that much into it but most of the meat in the meat industry comes from factory farms that really don’t resemble the happy-farm picture most people probably envision when they think of a farm. It’s really sad. My eyes were first opened when I read Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Froer. It’s a main reason I decided to first to become vegetarian and then eventually vegan. I think the biggest reasons some people do eat so much meat is that there is a huge disconnect between what people eat and where it comes from. Katherine Applegate, who wrote our beloved The One and Only Ivan, pointed this same thing out when we saw her speak at Anderson’s. She asked people to think about what the animals have to go through just to be in a circus simply to entertain us humans. There is a disconnect between what people in the audience see at the circus and what life is like for the animals behind the scenes.

COLBY: I eat a lot of meat because it is delicious.

A agree that there is a disconnect, but man I can not imagine life without a burger or chicken wings. Yum.

JEN: I never thought I could live without burgers or melty cheese but apparently I can. I think it would still send a message to the meat industry if everyone could eat a little less meat. Some people go meatless on Mondays or eat veggie until dinner. Or be conscious of where your meat comes from and try to not buy meat from the big companies known for their factory farming. That’s just my two cents! I’m done now. :) You know who to talk to if you ever want to talk about it more.

COLBY: Okay, Jen, I know you love to look at “snatches of text”. Charlotte’s Web, has my favorite first sentence of any book in the history of kid lit:

“Where’s Papa going with that ax?” said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.

Seriously, can you think of a better first line? Young readers have no choice but to read on. They must know where Papa is going. Fern setting the table for breakfast immediately throws us into an early morning setting. Jen, this book is SO STINKING GOOD.

JEN: I do so love snatches of text and I completely agree with you that the first line of Charlotte’s Web is a great snatch of text because it is an awesome hook. How can you not want to know what happens next!? And you are right, kids have to infer a lot about the story and can visualize so much just from that one line. It even brings up some where could he really be going with the ax?

COLBY: By this point in the school year, at least half of my fourth graders can quote this opening line because they’ve heard me say it so many times.

A couple of years ago when the new Charlotte’s Web came out on DVD I was very excited to watch it. I rushed to the video story and checked it out. When I got home I popped it in the DVD player only to be devastated when they decided to start the movie without that perfect line. I was so mad that I shut off the movie and took it straight back to the video store. That is how much I love that line.

JEN: I think I have seen one of the cartoon versions and it was cute but I can’t remember if it has the first line. It’s rare for the movie to be as good as the book. The adult book I have been rereading all week is my all-time favorite book, The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger and the movie did not do justice to the amazing writing that the author put into this book. It was okay and interesting to see on screen but so much had to be taken out and they made it much more soft and romantic compared to how raw and intense the book is. Just today I asked my oldest son to promise me he would read Harry Potter before seeing any of the movies. He was confused but agreed, which made me happy.

COLBY: I LOVE that you made your son promise that.

We'll be back next week to talk more about Charlotte's Web! Thanks for reading along with us!

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