A short introduction to the children’s classic, Charlotte’s Web, in the form of five interesting facts
1. Charlotte’s Web was a huge bestseller. It was the last children’s book to appear on the New York Times bestseller list until the Harry Potter series nearly half a century later. It has gone on to sell an estimated 45 million copies worldwide, making it one of the biggest-selling children’s novels ever. Indeed, Publishers Weekly have called it the biggest-selling children’s paperback ever published.
2. White wasn’t sure why he wrote it. Responding to a letter from a young reader, White confided, ‘I haven’t told why I wrote the book, but I haven’t told you why I sneeze, either. A book is a sneeze.’
3. Charlotte’s Web has been interpreted as E. B. White’s penance for being unable to save a sick pig. Four years before he published Charlotte’s Web, White wrote Death of a Pig, an account of his failure to save the life of a sick pig. Gerald Weales suggested that Charlotte’s Web was written as an attempt ‘to save his pig in retrospect’.
4. The book’s author, E. B. White, has been helping thousands of other writers to learn their craft, thanks to his work on a style guide. White was the author of two classic children’s books of the twentieth century: Charlotte’s Web (1952) and Stuart Little (1945). But he was also influential in his role as a contributor to The Elements of Style, the American English style guide which became known as ‘Strunk and White’, after White’s considerable additions to the original 1918 book by William Strunk, Jr.
5. Charlotte’s Web has inspired three films, a musical, and even a video game. As well as the classic 1973 film and the 2006 remake, White’s novel has also inspired a sequel to the original 1973 hit film (Charlotte’s Web 2: Wilbur’s Great Adventure, released as a direct-to-video movie in 2003) and a musical with music and lyrics by Charles Strouse. The video game, released in 2006 to coincide with the film remake, was aimed at the 4-7 age range and received fairly positive reviews.
Image: A family photograph of E. B. White, cropped from a photo of him and his wife, by Eustress; Wikimedia Commons.