Today, as an icebreaker at the beginning of our meeting, we were asked to share our favorite children's book. The smart aleck in me reached immediately for "Lord of the Flies," but then I thought again. I knew what the real answer was. I listened patiently while other teachers brought up their personal recollections of reading and being read to: "Where The Red Fern Grows," "Ramona the Pest."
I started to flinch when the guy next to me said that he always loved "Where The Wild Things Are." My mind immediately filled with the illustrations from the pages of Maurice Sendak's masterpiece. They rolled their terrible eyes, and clawed their terrible claws. And the wild rumpus. My son's middle name is Max, after all. I could feel myself being swayed.
Then I stopped and focused on my original thought: "Charlotte's Web." I remember the sounds and smells of that barn as well as I remember my childhood home. I can see the web, glistening with morning dew: "Some Pig." I love to read it aloud to my kids. The goose talking so very fast and repeating repeating words that make me smile. Templeton is a rat with the proverbial heart of gold, but he is still a rat. And Charlotte? Who better to introduce young pigs and young children to the wonders and harsh realities of life?
I have yet to get through the last two chapters without getting completely choked up. My son, the realist, looked at me and wondered what the big deal was. I tried to explain about how Wilbur was finding out how hard it is to lose a friend. I thought about a discussion of the loss of innocence might be a little premature, so I exhaled and told him that I believed that Wilbur was very lucky to have a friend like Charlotte. My son agreed.
I know someday he'll read "Charlotte's Web" to his kids. And it will be his favorite book then, too.