Sunday, April 15, 2012

Read Along on I-94 - Rereading Part 3 - Charlotte's Web

This week is our second part of my discussion of Charlotte's Web with Colby. In April we are rereading as we Read Along on I-94. First, we discussed Jon Klassen's I Want My Hat Back and then last week we started our discussion of E.B. White's Charlotte's Web. We hope you join in on our rereading discussions of these great books!

COLBY: Here’s the deal. I think Charlotte’s Web is the best book for fourth graders ever written. I’m sure that people could argue all kinds of other books for being better (I could as well), but 60 years of awesomeness….is pretty awesome.

JEN: That is a good point. When I think of all the Newbery books you and John have talked about and how not-great they are for kids today, it does make Charlotte’s Web amazing for more than just the story - it stands the test of time.

COLBY: What are the three books published in the last few years that you think will stand the test of time? Without thinking too long, the first books that come to mind for me are: The One and Only Ivan, Bigger Than a Bread Box, and Me...Jane.

JEN: That’s a really hard question. I am no good at those kinds of questions...but I’ll try. Right now, I am absolutely in love with Wonder and I see more and more how that book is about people and I think that makes it a book that will stand the test of time. I agree with Ivan because that’s a story about connections (even though they aren’t (all) human) and I can see how that would stand the test of time, too. Another book that comes to mind is Tale Dark and Grimm. That book is as much about connections and trust and love and told in such a great way.

COLBY: I think that Charlotte’s Web was the first book that I ever cried during. I can picture myself sitting in the back of Ms. Frey’s classroom fighting back tears at the end of the novel. I remember scanning the room to see if other kids were noticing my tears.

JEN: I don’t remember the first book that really made me cry...and I only remember a few read alouds really from school. I need to ask my mom what she can tell me about what she remembers about me and reading when I was young. I know I read a lot. Plus, I am the master of reading anywhere and being able to zone out what is going on around me.

COLBY: I was unaware that you are the master of reading. :)

JEN: I am “the master of reading anywhere”. I could sit in the middle of a game of dodgeball and just read away and it wouldn’t bother me. When she would visit with relatives and there were no other kids to play with, I would sit and read while there was a lot of chatter all around me. It doesn’t phase me.

COLBY: Who is your favorite character in Charlotte’s Web?

JEN: Easy question. No competition, Charlotte. I love her. She is sophisticated, she is poised, she is level-headed. She is smart, she has a take-charge attitude, she is a great friend. She takes the whole book to a different level for me as an adult reader - and even as a rereader. The book is about Wilbur being afraid to die but, at the same time, it’s about Charlotte knowing it is inevitable that she will die and being okay with that. How much more opposite can these perspectives be? While I was rereading this, I was so conscious of this. I realized how obvious it should have been to Wilbur that Charlotte couldn’t do anything to prevent her own death..

Now you have to tell me your favorite character!

COLBY: Templeton is pretty awesome, but I LOVE Wilbur. He’s clueless and innocent. Two things I love in a book character.

JEN: Of course your favorites are Templeton and Wilbur. I enjoy Templeton more now as an adult because I can appreciate him and his attitude more now. I’m not a huge fan of Wilbur. I’m glad that he’s saved and that people take care of him but what does he really do besides just have people fawn all over him? He was a bit too clueless and naive about things. I like him but I have more respect for Charlotte and her character. She’s the star in my mind. The book is named for her and her web after all...

COLBY: One thing that I found interesting while rereading Charlotte’s Web was how Fern was growing up and starting to show a little interest in boys. I did not catch that at all as a child. I was just so obsessed with Wilbur.

JEN: That’s so funny that you say you don’t remember her growing up and starting to like boys. I don’t remember that either...but I have to say I was surprised at how much she WAS in the story because I don’t remember her being in the story that much after she saves Wilbur at all. I found myself kind of mad at Fern this time around. First, she saves Wilbur and we love her. Then, she hangs out with Wilbur and Charlotte a bit...and there’s the part where she hears them talking and tells her mother about the stories they tell. (That had me really confused...I don’t get why she can hear and understand their stories...) But then, she really does leave Wilbur and Fern behind. What really had me riled up the most about this growing up part of her story was that when it’s time for Wilbur to get his ribbon, she goes off to the fair! That floored me. I get how she is growing up and kids are like that but it really bothered me when I read it this time. (I didn’t remember that from reading it before.)
COLBY: The Fern thing is very interesting to me. I wonder what E.B. White would have said about her. Hatchet is one of my favorite books of all-time. When I reread it, I find things I don’t like about it that I didn’t even notice when I was a kid.  
JEN: Did you know there is a non-fiction book called The Story of Charlotte’s Web by Michael Sims? It’s all about EB White, his life, and how he came to write Charlotte’s Web. Now, we’ll have to go and read that! Thanks for a great discussion of Charlotte’s Web both last week and this week.


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