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Every now and then, it's good to dust off a classic and remind ourselves that certain stories never get old. Charlotte's Web is just that kind of tale. The most recent adaptation of E.B. White's near-perfect novel stars Dakota Fanning as Fern, and features Julia Roberts as the voice of Charlotte. The conflict is timeless: Wilbur, a pig new to the farm, is warned that he is soon to be turned into bacon. Charlotte, a brave and literary spider, turns out to be brilliant at public relations. She designs a campaign to save Wilbur: by weaving words into her web to catch the attention of the farm's owner, she convinces him that Wilbur is an extraordinary pig worth saving. Unfortunately for Charlotte -- and this is the sad part for kids -- she can not save herself. After making 514 spider eggs, she dies, leaving Wilbur to raise her three smallest who stay on the farm. This is a film full of heart, full of great values like friendship, love and courage, and is one of those rare films that does justice to the book from which it came.
Charlotte, we discovered, is modeled on a real spider and what child isn't interested in getting to know their eight-legged friends a little better? Our local Natural History Museum has a special structure - a Spider Pavilion - designed for spider-kid encounters. On a recent visit we found ourselves caged in with arachnids! Whether you are engrossed, or grossed out, at the thought of mingling with spiders, we found that kids are incredible comfortable seeking out their webby friends. We asked the kids to find Charlotte, and with a little help from a friendly docent, they found her happily spinning zig zags into a silken web. When the webs were misted with water, arachnid artistry was made real for our kids: golden orbs and intricate weavings, spiders with pink legs or yellow tummies popped into sight. When we jiggled the far end of a complex web, the reigning female raced toward the vibration to see who'd come calling, and if they might stay for dinner! It wasn't long until we were fascinated and developed a new appreciation for those eight-legged creatures who make their home beneath our eaves.
Want some more details about Charlotte's Web? Here are some tidbits:
Want to talk to your kids about Charlotte's Web? Here are some conversation starters:
Meet Some Real Spiders
Visit spiders at the Zoo or your local Natural History Museum
Age Recommendations: five and up
Time Allotment: a few hours
Here are our Buttery Bits of Wisdom about this Adventure.
Here are some tips on where to find spiders around the country.
Want some spider-y books? Click here to see all our book picks at the Kids Off the Couch store at Amazon.com.