Five Fascinating Facts about Charlotte’s Web

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 E B Whitepig. 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.


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  3. I read this in 3rd grade and as an elementary teacher to young children. They take Charlotte’s death as a spider since she helped Wilbur live and spawned baby spiders. I liked James Heriott as a vet in England and his animal stories transfer well to children. Elements of Style was a great help to me. Smiles, Robin

  4. Thanks for this taste of White, Dr. Tearle. I consider E.B. White the finest prose stylist of the last century. I visit his essays for grace and sanity. Regards, John (P.S. I commented on your previous post mentioning James Thurber that I have met his daughter Rosemary. Sadly, I don’t recall anything useful, other than to say that she was a gentle, centered person. As far as the Internet is concerned, she is still among the living.)

  5. Even when I was a kid, I didn’t get this book. Heard it first read to me by my mom, then had to read it again and school. Had it been up to me, Wilber would have been starring on the Breakfast Buffet, that needy, whiny narcissist. Charlotte gave all, announces she is dying–Wilber, without even the suggestion of comforting, bemoans his fate without her. But what about me? The ingrate. “Some pig, indeed.”

  6. Wow! You changed your header! And color scheme! :-)

  7. I just so love Charlotte’s Web. After I read it to my son when he was little, he insisted on keeping a Charlotte of his own. This particular house spider lived in a large plastic tub that had once stored a 2 litres of ice cream. We put cling film over the top, with little holes in it. “Charlotte” had a chunk of bath-sponge soaked in water for her to drink from, and we gave her a couple of blowflies a week! She spun the most intricate webs, lived for one year, and grew extremely large. We didn’t have the facilities to keep a pig, too, but I’m sure my son would have liked that very much if it had been possible.

    Re “The Elements of Style”, it’s the only grammar book that I’ve ever read that’s both concise and entertaining. (Thank you, Stephen King, for recommending it in your book “On Writing”.)

  8. Such cool facts! I didn’t know he was the “White” of the style guide, and this is one of my (and probably many of my generation) favorite books of all time. Thanks for sharing!

  9. I loved the book and the movie… a must for everybody to see!!! :-)claudine

  10. Reblogged this on Routine Matters and commented:
    An excellent post from Interesting Literature.
    See also …

  11. An excellent post which I am reblogging on A Writer’s Den.
    Also visit here for a detailed look at E.B. White’s writing routine.

    All the best. Kris.

  12. Annette Rochelle Aben

    Fascinating, I enjoyed this post.

  13. Reblogged this on My train of thoughts on… and commented:
    Dear readers, you may recall my ‘Charlotte’s Web’ review and – you may remember that I loved this book! Therefore, I am sure that you will consider these facts fascinating as well. :-)