If there were any one book that I could confidently say that I know inside and out, it would be E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. My grandmother’s name is Charlotte and as a child, I gravitated towards the book. Of course, as I discovered that Charlotte is a spider, I giggled at the fact that my grandma shared a namesake with a spider. My parents bought me the animated film as a birthday present one year and I watched with glee over and over as Wilbur, Fern and Charlotte became friends. It was a love story between pet and human, animal and friend, and I loved every moment of it.
Last year, I taught 3rd grade English and one of our assigned books was Charlotte’s Web. Of course, the 3rd grade girls smiled as I handed them their books while the 3rd grade boys groaned, made faces, and with awkward falsetto voices shouted “oh Charlotte, I love you!” As we dove into the book, the 3rd grade girls loved Wilbur and Charlotte, loved Fern and her love for Wilbur, and loved everything about the book. The 3rd grade boys, though they didn’t want to admit it in the beginning, became interested in the book, as well. They would draw pictures from the book and leave them on my desk, though they would pretend it was from the girls – (they forget that I saw them drawing it during their down time). The story is a lovely tale of friendship and teaches valuable lessons of loyalty and the value of a life.
So, why am I talking about all of this when it is Banned Book Tuesday? Because this same book, E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, which has been translated into 23 languages and has sold more than 45 million copies, is often challenged or banned by the ALA. Why? For two reasons, one of which is quite similar to last weeks post on A.A. Milne’s Winnie The Pooh.
Reason #1: Because the idea of talking animals is blasphemous. Religious groups protested this novel because they argued that humans are the only species on earth that can talk to God. To allow an animal to have the same rights is a disgrace to God.
Reason #2: Because a spider dying at the end is just too serious and strong of a theme for children to understand. I can honestly say from teaching young children, this concept is in no way too difficult for them to understand.
Reason #3: Similar to Winnie the Pooh, the idea that a pig is the main character of a story is sacrilegious.
My problem with this ideal is that if children are not allowed to read a valuable book because it has talking characters in it, then they shouldn’t be allowed to watch any Disney movie or any cartoon for that matter. Children won’t be allowed to experience the entertainment that children are allotted for their age. It’s just plain silly… and that’s all there is to it.