Our twenty-second reader and I sat down next to a tall shelf bursting with children’s books to discuss her connection to E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web (1952). In the sixty four years since its publication, this masterful tale of unlikely friendship has captured the hearts and imaginations of generations of children around the world. White’s simple prose and enduring message of love can have a lasting impact on a young reader’s interpretation of life, death, and acceptance. In this interview we discusses our reader’s first memories of the novel, her connection to its setting, the origins of White’s creative process, the appearance of death in children’s literature, and the effect of promoting kindness at a young age.
“It’s such a fantastic gift that we’ve been given, and I wish children were read to and read the way we did…I think it’s fundamental to your understanding. When you do go out in that world, you’re far better equipped if you’ve been reading all of these great works, and have had them read to you. I also think that, you know, putting on your pajamas and snuggling in..there’s such a comfort in having your aunt read you a few chapters of a book before you get your hot chocolate. That too takes you through a lot of rough stuff…I always give children books at every occasion.”
The Empathy Exams: Essays – Leslie Jamison