Great Books of the World – Part 20

“Bells (with Voices)” by Roger Eno, Cecily Eno, and Lottie Eno (courtesy of Deutsche Grammophon):

 

“To be grateful is to find blessing in everything.
This is the most powerful attitude to adopt,
for there is a blessing in everything.”
Safa Sherin

Courtesy of waltzish:

In this post, I am reviewing a book that stormed the world with the power of imagination, dynamic storytelling, and always a moral message that would transcend cultural differences and be understood everywhere. And this is the sure-proof recipe for budding writers of today. Gratitude, after kindness, is the greatest virtue. John Robins wrote pointedly: “One who forgets the language of gratitude can never be on speaking terms with happiness.”

E.B. White taking dictation from his dog

E. B. WHITE (Elwyn Brooks White)
1899  –  1985

Courtesy of Harvest Books:

Someone once called E. B. White the most companionable of writers and to be one of the most compassionate, and his books are proof of this description. White’s command of literary etiquette was so sure, he could even make entertaining a book of grammar and usage instruction. He was a modest person and this was evident in his prose, and one can easily imagine his taking pleasure in the fact that his legacy would rest on the books he wrote for children, especially “Charlotte’s Web”, which is in a class of its own.

Courtesy of THNKR:

 

This enchanting story will make you both laugh and cry, and will live with you forever. I love this book with a passion! Please read this extraordinary tale, it will reinforce your perception of what is important in life – friendship, constancy, love, and gratitude.

Courtesy of BBC Earth:

The eponymous protector in the novel was inspired by a real spider, according to a fairly recent biography of the author. The biographer, Michael Sims, was reading through a collection of White’s letters when he found a reply to some schoolchildren, in which the author wrote that “I didn’t like spiders at first, but then I began watching one of them, and soon saw what a wonderful creature she was and what a skilful weaver. I named her Charlotte.” Sims was prompted by this observation on a journey to explore whether there was indeed a real Charlotte, visiting White’s old barn in Maine where Fern and Avery’s rope still hung and finding that “there had been numerous Charlottes and Wilburs and Templetons in his life – but that there was indeed a particular clever spider who helped inspire the book.”

Courtesy of CBS News:

In “The Story of Charlotte’s Web”, Sims describes how White noticed an elaborate spider web one morning in the autumn of 1949. Watching it over the next few weeks, he saw the spider was spinning an egg sac, and when later that autumn he realised the spider had disappeared, he decided to take the egg sac with him when he had to return to New York where he worked as a contributor to the New Yorker. White “carefully cut the binding strands of web that held the egg sac to the wood of the barn”, put it in an empty sweet box and punched a few holes in the lid. Weeks later, he saw that “tiny spiderlings, so small they were barely visible”, were climbing through the air holes, and, delighted at their antics, he left them to it for the next two weeks until his maid objected.

Fascinated by spiders, White researched them meticulously, even portraying himself as a spider in a poem for his wife Katharine which concludes:

“Thus I, gone forth, as spiders do,
In spider’s web a truth discerning,
Attach one silken strand to you
For my returning.”

The shy author, who also wrote the children’s books Stuart Little and The Trumpet of the Swan, often “hid behind animals”, according to Sims, even writing to his wife in the voice of their pet dog Daisy. Sims noted that “animals were his favourite acquaintances”, pointing to White’s comment as a child that “this boy felt for animals a kinship he never felt for people.”

“My foray into the field of children’s literature was an accident, and although I do not mean to suggest that I spun my two yarns in perfect innocence and that I did not set about writing Charlotte’s Web deliberately, nevertheless, the thing started innocently enough, and I kept on because I found it was fun,” wrote White in the New York Times in 1961. “All that I ever hope to say in books is that I love the world. I guess you can find that in there, if you dig around. Animals are part of my world and I try to report them faithfully and with respect.”

“Concerto For Clarinet & Orchestra in A, K.622, 2nd movement: Adagio” by Mozart, performed by David Campbell and City Of London Sinfonia:

 

The book begins with a jarring question: “Where is Papa going with that axe?” It is asked by eight-year-old Fern Arable, who is distressed by her mother’s answer: “Mr Arable is on his way to the hoghouse to do away with the runt of the litter born the night before because as he will explain, ‘A weakling makes trouble.'”

After much begging her father not to kill the little runt, Fern was given a piglet to bring up like a baby on a bottle of milk.

Bugeilio’r Gwenith Gwyn” (Watching the White Wheat) (Traditional, arranged by John Rutter), performed by Catrin Finch and Kia Bennett:

 

The realities of farm life fall under the spell of the author’s invention, as hard facts – the hardest being of course, that Wilbur the pig’s likely destiny is summed up in the words “pork chops” – are transformed into a lovely, funny, and deeply moving tale. The collaborative ingenuity of the animals in the barn – even the rat, Templeton has his innate greed turned to good use – drives the tale to its satisfying conclusion, while the natural cycle of death and renewal is closely observed. White’s attention to nature’s truths is surpassed only by his allegiance to the human virtues.

Paramount released an animated film version in 1973; in 2006 a live-action film, featuring an all-star cast, including Julia Roberts and Dakota Fanning, was released. Best of all is the charming audiobook version, read by the author. White was awarded a Pulitzer Prize special citation for the body of his work in 1978.

Courtesy of Rotten Tomatoes Classic Trailers:

 

An extract from “Charlotte’s Web”:

“The barn was very large. It smelled of hay and it smelled of manure. It smelled of the perspiration of tired horses and the wonderful sweet breath of patient cows. It often had a sort of peaceful smell  – as though nothing bad could happen ever again in the world. It smelled of grain and of harness dressing and of axle grease and of rubber boots and of new rope. And whenever the cat was given a fish-head to eat, the barn would smell of fish. But mostly it smelled of hay, for there was always hay in the great loft up overhead. And there was always hay being pitched down to the cows and the horses and the sheep.

The barn was pleasantly warm in winter when the animals spent most of their time indoors, and it was pleasantly cool in summer when the big doors stood wide open to the breeze. The barn had stalls on the main floor for the horses, tie-ups on the main floor for the cows, a sheepfold down below for the sheep, a pigpen down for Wilbur, and it was full of all sorts of things that you find in barns: ladders, grindstones, pitch forks, monkey wrenches, scythes, lawn mowers, snow showers, ax handles, milk pails, water buckets, empty grain sacks. It was the kind of barn that the swallows like to build their nests in. It was the kind of barn that children like to play in.  Wilbur’s new home was in the lower part of the barn, directly underneath the cows. Pigs needed warmth, and it was warm and comfortable down there in the barn cellar on the south side.

Fern came almost every day, to visit him. She found an old milking stool that had been discarded, and she placed the stool in the sheepfold next to Wilbur’s pen. Here she sat quietly during the long afternoons, thinking and listening and watching Wilbur. The sheep soon got to know her and trust her. So did the geese, who lived with the sheep. All animals trusted her, she was so quiet and friendly.”

Courtesy of Letters Aloud:

 

“Concerto in B-Flat Major for Cello & Orchestra, G. 482: III. Rondo. Allegro” by Luigi Boccherini, performed by Yo-Yo Ma and Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra:

 

 

 

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

47 thoughts on “Great Books of the World – Part 20

  1. I enjoyed reading this and watching the videos. So beautiful dear Joanna 🤗💖💖💖

    Like

  2. Thank you, Dear Krishna, for your lovely comment! This is another book and post to give to your little nephew.

    Thank you again.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I will share it with sister to show him. Thank you 💖

    Like

  4. Thank you, Krishna, I am sure he will be curious what this book is about.

    Joanna

    Like

  5. I’d never heard of E.B. White until now Joanna, and I hadn’t heard of Charlotte’s Web either. Strangely enough though I do know about Stuart Little, and I can see why you chose this one as it has all the ingredients for the perfect children’s story book. I used to read bedtime stories to my daughter and this one would have been perfect. I remember reading her ‘Watership Down’ which was a story about rabbits if you haven’t read it. The trouble was I didn’t read it first, and it had a sad ending, which isn’t great for trying to get kids off to sleep. Sorry, I’ve rambled on a bit here, but once again Joanna, you’ve come up with another gem here, and secretly, I’d enjoy watching that film myself if nobody was looking – and I love those drawings. Thanks for yet another great post and introducing me to an author I thought I never knew.

    Like

  6. Thank you, Malc, for interesting comments! I have Watership Down among my 10.000 books as I studied Literature. I am delighted that you will, no doubt, read Charlotte Web, as it is unmissable gem. Thank you.

    Joanna

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Gosh, Joanna, I’ve never heard of this author or the book! Thank you for enlightening me! (When I originally saw the post I thought you were about to write about T. H. White, the author of The Once & Future King which I did read to my daughters when they were very young!) Well, I now will have to read Charlotte’s Web but unfortunately my daughters are now too old (oops!) for me to read to them! There is still an opportunity though, my great grandson might enjoy it and maybe one day a great granddaughter! Thanks, Joanna, another wonderful post. Feet up now! Have a restful and peaceful weekend. 🌹🤗💓💌💝🙋‍♂️

    Like

  8. Thank you, Ashley, for your lovely comments! I have to correct your perception here, this book should be, and is read by anyone who like to read imaginative and inspiring books, whether they are 7 or 90 years old. Your whole family will be enchanted when you read it and see the world in a different, more interesting light.

    Joanna

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Great information shared, Joanna!! Well done!

    Like

  10. A wonderful book Joanna! Thank you for addressing Mg to our appreciation of it. 🙂

    Like

  11. ThanK you, Indira, or your kind comments. Greatly appreciated!

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Thank you, Dora, for your generous comments! Greatly appreciated!

    Joanna

    Like

  13. I’m one of the few people who haven’t read this book. I read one of his memoirs though. He had a clean, natural, unhurried style of writing. He wrote beautifully.

    Like

  14. Nice post, Joanna… Strange, I somehow always thought of E. B. White as a woman! I first read this book with my kids and enjoyed their enjoyment though I came to it too late in life to love it the way they did. But the illustrations are perfect!

    Like

  15. Thank you, for your kind comment! I think that this story brings the best in us in terms of being human. And make me listen to Mozart with greater understanding.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  16. What a coincidence, Joanna! Today I had shared a picture of peacock spider in my post to represent the MIC monster. And now it’s your Charlotte. Incidentally during my school days, I had read about King Robert Bruce, who got inspired to fight back when he saw a spider in his hideout cave, which was trying again and again to make her thread stick to the wall of the cave.

    That spider taught to try and try, never to give up, and this Charlotte teaches the value of friendship. It also emphasises on active listening, empathy, understanding and power of language.

    This book is now on my bucket list. I think if such a book is read by children in their formative years, it will inculcate a spirit of friendship, love, empathy and gratitude, that are very much missing these days, even in adults.

    Thank you, Joanna, for talking about this book and the related interesting stories. It’s quite interesting to know that White portraying himself as a spider, had written a poem to his wife. Thanks for making one more Saturday evening entertaining and meaningful.

    Liked by 3 people

  17. Thank you, Kaushal, for your wonderful, as always, comments! As we are such good friends there is some telepathic connection between us. I think that this book is a must at any age, and it will release the feeling in your heart that you did not know to have.

    Thank you again, Kaushal, for making my Saturday happy!

    Joanna

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Clearly this is a book I should have known! Although it would make me cry, even now! I love the message of White’s writing, especially where he urges “Hang on to hope.” Animals often help humans to find their softer, kinder side. They hold so much wisdom if we only learn to watch and appreciate them. I love the dance of Milena Sidorova. What talent. And of course, I love all the music. Thank you for introducing me to Charlotte. I had heard of the story, of course, but did not know it. It is lovely.

    Like

  19. Thank you, Carolyn, for your wonderful and insightful comments! I love spiders and have done things for them that would be seen by many people as sign of madness! Yet, the spiders regard me as sane, the view I share.

    As you know, I have the same understanding of the importance of nature, as you, and your professional study of the world around you gives me much pleasure. Thank you.

    Joanna

    Like

  20. This is the first book I remember loving, and each selection in your wonderful post has made me smile this morning. Thank you, Joanna. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Thank you for such a wonderful comment! Greatly appreciated!

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Thank you so much for such a well-researched, fantastic article.
    I loved it very much also because I didn’t know the book

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Thank you, Luisa, for your lovely comment!

    This book is a must, especially if not acquainted with spiders!

    Thank you again, greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  24. You’re highly welcome 🙏❣️🙏

    Like

  25. It’s my pleasure, Joanna! Have a great weekend!!

    Like

  26. Hi Joanna,
    Not only is this author iconic and a favorite from my childhood and from when my children were little, but so is this book. It is interesting to read of his fascination with spiders. I have carried arachnophobia through the years since the age of 10, so it’s not that I don’t like them, I simply fear the creepy crawlers. But as I’ve grown older, the fear has lessened, and I can appreciate their benefits and silk artwork. I even included my humorous story, “Laughing Spiders” in my recent book, More than Coffee. Thank you for sharing. I thoroughly enjoyed this post.

    Like

  27. Thank you, Lauren, for your kind comments! I always loved spiders and helped them in my house.

    I think they appreciated my efforts and I was never harmed in any way.

    Thank you again.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  28. This is a beautiful post so well executed and shared with all of us about E.B. White. Thank you so much for your painstaking time of sharing and caring about animals, humanity, or world and the people in history that you continue to share from your heart. I love animals as you know. We gifted our daughter a pot belly pig for xmas and we adored her. Her name was Jewels and she slept in our bed for the first 6 months. We’re all sad she’s not with us anymore.
    Love the dancing video, the music all of it!!! so awesome Joanna! ❤️

    Like

  29. Lovely, heartfelt comments to start with Joanna. I enjoy how your words enrich each one of us. Even before reading this post my mind told me to have this book and narrate its story to the school kids. It is one thing that I must start, really. To practise telling one story each week on preferably a Saturday to be able to first get a hang of stories that I can use in later life as examples and even share from your beautiful basket of wealth to my children here at school.

    This post too resembles in at least one thing, like the last week’s post where you remembered your childhood going to the top of the mountain to a cowshed, this too gave a glimpse of a similar set up and somehow even happier with so many smells coming at a time. And of course your memory of it. I have always loved writer who could imagine a life inclusive of all else with themselves and E.B White did that as became his second nature.

    I greatly enjoyed reading this dear joanna, as much it made me resolve to read one story so as to start narrating it as soon as I can in my school.

    Thanks so much again.

    Like

  30. Thank you, Narayan, for your wonderfully eloquent comments. I am delighted you are planning to tell the children at your school about the books I have written. But Of course, the most important is for them to be acquainted with the famous works of literature and be influenced by their wisdom. I hope that you are not going to be surprised by my devotion to spiders. Still, apart from having the same experience the author had with spiderlings, I have donated one floor-level cupboard to hundreds of spiders to live there in safety, be fed with sugar they love, and not to be disturbed. One day, a new cleaning lady arrived, and while I was working on my book, suddenly a piercing scream made me run to the kitchen thinking that she had an accident.
    She was pointing to the cupboard, and from her facial expression, it was obvious she was wondering if I am safe to be with. I made tea to calm her, and said, forget the cleaning, I will show you something that will change your mind. I showed her the sack with tiny baby spiders so beautiful that even this woman could see my point. I also explained that I was studying spiders to write about them. So here, Narayan, you have another story that will amuse your children. By observing young spiders one can see where hhe fairy tales about the flying carpets came from;
    a spider releases a long string-like part of the web and the wind picks it up and gives the spider a ride somewhere high.
    Thank you again, Narayan, greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Thank you, Cindy, for your beautiful comments! I know that you love nature and even snakes! I indulged myself by including Mozart, my very favorite composer, whose music corresponds with the human heartbeat. Thank you for the heart!

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  32. It is my pleasure Joanna! I do love nature just like you and I’m in aww of your depth of delivery and knowledge of history and gifts you give. Oh yes, he was so good and his work is always so heart opening. You’re so welcome my friend 💗

    Like

  33. I just saw my reply didn’t get through yesterday Joanna.

    I can’t even write it again to tell you how genius you are and this story is just over the top of anyone’s imagination. Wonder it is.

    I will write to you sooner.

    Like

  34. Thank you, it was for your children’ amusement. Please write!

    Like

  35. This is an excellent post, Joanna. One of my favorites of your posts. I love this book, the author, and especially the story of Charlotte’s Web. I used to read it to my 4th grade students when we came back to the room after lunch.
    I am currently working on a way to make a story with a collection of writing spider photos that I collected over the last two months. This gave me some inspiration to keep pursuing it. Thank you for this wonderful post.
    Dwight

    Like

  36. Thank you, Dwight, for your wonderful comments! Your idea is interesting. Thank you again.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  37. You are welcome! I will see how it comes out.

    Like

  38. Hi Joanne! I sent a comment and now I don’t see it anywhere? Not sure what happened? I will check into it. But, I really liked your post as always. You find the most interesting pictures and stories are so well written. Cheers! 🙂 😀

    Like

  39. I got this comment, thank you. I will check also if something else is hiding!

    Thank you for your kind message.

    Joanna

    Like

  40. My pleasure. I went to see what’s new and saw a bit of a discrepancy. Not sure why I even looked. just reading the comments I suppose. Anyway, I will double check for a time. Hope you are making merry! 🎄

    Like

  41. Thank you, not yet, but I am always in a happy mood.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  42. Thank you Joanna for this share, lovely post and it highlights your love for animals.

    Liked by 1 person

  43. Thank you, Henrietta, for your kind comments. It is a pleasure to read words like yors. Greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  44. Great post, E. B. white, l found him interesting, his quote was l saw all over his face 😀.

    Like

  45. I’m only just now catching up on some reading. Charlotte’s Web is an all time favourite of mine! Thank you Joanna.

    Like

  46. 0Thank you, Peter, for your kind comment. Better late than never!

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

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