Books That Inspire 2009

Charlotte's Web
E. B. White

I was in third grade when I read Charlotte’s Web, by E. B. White, and it was the first time I understood a book to be a piece of literature. The story begins on a family farm with a little girl named Fern whose father sets out to kill the runt of the litter - a little pig later named Wilbur. Fern protested, asking her father if he would have done the same to her. “A little girl is one thing, a little runty pig is another,” he responded, to which she replied, “I see no difference.” This assertive response sets the tone for a book that deals with very serious issues of gender and generational conflict, friendship, death and loss. The anthropomorphized animals in the story struck an empathetic chord with me, and although the adults did not see the world in the same way as Fern, her parents indulged her request to keep Wilbur, which set off a chain of life-changing events for everyone. The story does not, in the end, draw a simple moralizing conclusion like most children's stories, and that is what made it so thought-provoking.

Allison L. Palmer
Associate Professor
School of Art and Art History