Oct 15, 2013

Weaving A Web - A Review Of The Greatest Children's Story Ever Written

Reconnecting To Our 'Inner Child' Through Stories

Many stories from our childhood continue to resonate within us as adults.  For many, this connection remains far more meaningful, than more complex books we read later.  Because our "critical thinking lens" can be become cloudy and smudged by misinformation and information overload, reconnecting, from time to time, with the world of children's literature can actually lead to greater clarity of thought, insight and overall emotional wellness.

Recently, I started working on a couple of children's book ideas of my own.  As part of my research and preparation for these projects, I have been reading various books from my own childhood.  The benefit to me, and the reaction I get from others, who notice my reading has been nothing short of remarkable.

Charlotte's Web 
Image courtesy of Wikipedia

For example, I am currently reading Charlotte's Web by E.B. White. The book was published on October 15, 1952, 61 years ago today.

Several days ago, I happened to be reading the book in the waiting room at my doctor's office.  Suddenly, I was approached by a smiling female stranger.  Forty-something and professional looking, she introduced herself politely, saying she could not help but notice my book.  She expressed quite emotionally and forthrightly why and how much she loved Charlotte's Web

As we spoke, we each related Charlotte's Web to several cherished memories from our rural childhoods.  I explained how the book had been read to my 2nd grade class by a beloved teacher.  She underscored how important it was for her to have a story featuring a small town farm girl, Fern, as the main human character.  When my name was called, we parted company.  The exchange was clearly cathartic for my new friend; it was an equally enriching experience for me.

Charlotte's Web won the John Newberry Honor, one of the highest awards given for children's literature.  Considering that the story's main characters are a pig, a spider and little girl - not the traditional boy and his dog stories typified by "Lassie Come Home" (1943) and "Old Yeller" (1957) - White undertook an immensely challenging project as a writer.  He made less cuddly creatures adorable, the overlooked remarkable, and the less popular worthy of human interest and care.  For these reasons, Charlotte's Web is, in this writer's opinion, the greatest children's story ever written.

What is your favorite children's story?  Does it continue to resonate with you, even as an adult?  If so, why?  Any and all comments are greatly appreciated.

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