For almost twenty years now I’ve begun the school year with a study of Andy White (aka E. B. White). That means I’ve read Charlotte’s Web countless times and, let me tell you, it never gets old or boring. With each rereading I’m blown away again by White’s genius. And I’m glad to see I’m not the only one to have this experience. In his recent Los Angeles Times essay, “‘Charlotte’s Web’ Returns,” David L. Ulin writes about reading the book over and over to his young son and how that experience solidified his appreciation of the book and the author.
As a result of my longstanding relationship with the book, along with many others, I have been anticipating with dubious anxiety the new Charlotte’s Web movie. The fart joke in the first trailer I saw certainly did nothing to reassure me nor did all the big names in the cast. The 1973 animated movie, in my opinion, is a travesty and I refuse to show it in school, telling my students they can watch it at home. As for the new one, I feared that the impulse towards sentimentality and lowest-common-denominator humor would win out.
However, over the last few weeks there were some encouraging signs. One of my students went to a screening and assured us that the movie stayed true to the book. Some child_lit subscribers also returned from screenings expressing positive feelings about the movie. By the beginning of this week my feelings had changed; now I was eager to see the movie for myself.
At this moment the film, opening today, has an 85% approval rating at rottentomatoes and a very enthuisastic review from A. O. Scott in the New York Times. Thank goodness, since we decided earlier this week to take the whole fourth grade to the first showing today. We told them yesterday and boy were they excited! I am too; as I wrote their parents, what could be better than seeing the movie with an auditorium full of E. B. White experts?
I’ll be back soon with our review.