Monday, September 11, 2006

Charlotte's Web, by E.B. White

(hb; 1952)

From the inside flap:

“This is the story of a little girl who loved a pig named Wilbur – and of Wilbur's dear friend Charlotte A. Cavatica, a beautiful large grey spider who lived with Wilbur in the barn. With the help of Templeton, the rat who never did anything for anybody else unless there was something in it for him, and by a wonderfully clever plan of her own, Charlotte saved the life of Wilbur, who by this time had grown up to quite a pig...”

Review:

Charming, knowing – author White peppers many of the animals' observations with an adult awareness – and warm, this is one of my favorite kid's books. The plot, life-wise, clever and kind, races along, it has great characters (I confess that I love Templeton's character the most), and the happy ending's promising feistiness (especially Joy's, Aranea's and Nellie's) completes the enchantment.

Classic work, for and with a reason.

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Three films have directly resulted from the book.

The animated 1973 version touts the voice talents of Debbie Reynolds (as Charlotte A. Cavatica); Paul Lynde (as Templeton); Henry Gibson (as Wilbur); Pamela Ferdin (as Avery Arable); Danny Bonaduce (as Avery Arable); Agnes Moorehead (as The Goose).

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A direct-to-video animated sequel, Charlotte's Web 2: Wilbur's Great Adventure, appeared in 2003. Julia Duffy voices Charlotte; David Beron, Wilbur; Amanda Bynes, Nellie. Anndi McAfee and Maria Bamford voice Aranea, at different stages of her life (I'd guess, anyway). Brenda Vaccaro voices Mrs. Hirsch.

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A live-action version is set to be released on December 15, 2006. Gary Winick directs the film, from a script by Susannah Grant and Karey Kirkpatrick.

Sam Shepard narrates the film.

Dakota Fanning plays Fern. Julia Roberts voices Charlotte A. Cavatica. Oprah Winfrey voices Gussy. Steve Buscemi voices Templeton. Kathy Bates voices Bitsy. John Cleese voices Samuel. Robert Redford voices Ike. Cedric the Entertainer voices Golly the Goose. Beau Bridges plays Dr. Dorian.

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