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Friday, February 14, 2014

514 Children

This week I finished reading E. B. White's classic book Charlotte's Web to the second graders. They are amazed when Charlotte tells Wilbur there are 514 eggs in her magnum opus, her egg sac. Silence settles on the group when I read the line "No one was with her when she died" (with tears welling up in my eyes). And they sigh with smiles when they hear me read my favorite lines:
"It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a great write. Charlotte was both."

Last night after parent conferences, one boy was leaving the building with his mom at the same time I departed. "Please," he begged. "Can you read Charlotte's Web again?"

No matter how many times I have read this book, my throat tightens when Charlotte dies, giggles spill from me when Wilbur tries to spin a web with a piece of string attached to his tail, and my excitement rises with Wilbur's when three of Charlotte's 514 baby spiders ("That means 511 drifted away as aeronauts," one listener told me today) stay in the barn cellar. When teachers tell me their students have already read a book - insinuating I should not read it to them again - or when they demand that another grade level not use a book because they plan to do so, I remind them of how adult readers really do reread books...and with great pleasure. Many of these children will reread Charlotte's Web someday, and I hope the experience takes them back to the story steps when they were in second grade. 


  1. Oh, Dear Charlotte & Wilbur & Fern, Dear You, & Dear Readers of different generations. I read that the fair is based on the Blue Hill Fair, not too far from here. Re-reading is a lovely thing, & I have the feeling I'll be re-reading Charlotte's Web in the near future.

  2. Rereading a favorite book is one of life's pleasures!

  3. I still remember my first time reading Charlotte's Web. I must have been about 12, reading it on a hot, humid summer evening during a thunderstorm, in a big orange beanbag chair dragged into the living room, near the open door, trying to catch a little coolness from the storm's rain.
    Images and scenes have stayed from that book throughout my life. I don't know if I've ever reread the entire thing, but I've reread chapters. And you quoted one of my favorite lines too, "It's not often that someone comes along who is true friend and a great writer."

    I think the book that I've reread the most is "Dear Mr. Henshaw" by Beverly Clearly (which I'm sure is no surprise to you, Julie!). It never fails to make me laugh and cry.