The Life Giving Power Of Words

Charlotte’s Web
E.B. White

You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what’s a life, anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die. A spider’s life can’t help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that. 


Rick WilcoxWhat does it mean to be made in God’s image? Among other things, it means we are moral agents whose actions bear eternal consequence. For better or worse, our decisions resonate in eternity.  We certainly find this true in our role as stewards over the rest of creation, but like Cain we also are our brother’s keeper.

In Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me, Karen Swallow Prior says this:

A few days later, the horse trader told me, in his gentle, gruff way, that there was nothing to be done; the damage was too great. “His legs were just too bad. He couldn’t stand anymore.” Mercifully, he had put Sonny down.

I knew that ultimately this was my doing. I had brought this horse into the world, and I had failed him in the worst possible way that a living creature can be failed. I wore—and still wear—the weight of this responsibility. I never again brought an animal into the world.

Have you ever felt responsible for the suffering of another?

How did you cope with that burden?

Genesis 4:9-13

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” And He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground. So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you. A fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on the earth.” And Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear!” 


Dig Deeper

Literature, Liturgy & The Arts


E.B. White and Charlotte’s Web

E.B. White

(1899–1985). Although his publications range from three well-known children’s books to numerous essays, books, and poems for adults, E.B. White’s works consistently display eloquent craftsmanship and a keen sense of observation.

Elwyn Brooks White was born on July 11, 1899, in Mount Vernon, New York. He attended Cornell University on a scholarship and served as editor in chief of its daily newspaper. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in English in 1921, he worked for the United Press, the American Legion News Service, and the Seattle Times. He took a job as a mess boy aboard an Alaskan ship in 1923 but returned to Mount Vernon later in the year to work in an advertising agency.

The founding of The New Yorker magazine in 1925 proved pivotal to White’s career. After having several submissions accepted, he joined the staff full-time in 1927. He married one of the editors, Katharine Sergeant Angell, in 1929 and became stepfather to her two children; a son was born to them the following year. Although the couple later left New York for a Maine farm, White remained a lifelong contributor to the magazine. He also wrote a monthly column entitled “One Man’s Meat” for Harper’s magazine from 1938 to 1943.

White’s publications for adults included The Lady Is Cold (1929), Is Sex Necessary? (1929, with James Thurber), Farewell to Model T (1936), The Fox of Peapack and Other Poems (1938), The Wild Flag (1946), The Second Tree from the Corner (1954), and The Points of My Compass (1962). Letters of E.B. White was published in 1976, and a collection of his essays appeared a year later. White also contributed to and revised several editions of William Strunk Jr.’s classic writer’s manual, The Elements of Style.

White’s first children’s book was Stuart Little (1945), an adventure story about a two-inch-(5-centimeter-)tall, mouselike son born to average human parents. White followed the success of that book with Charlotte’s Web (1952), winner of the 1958 Lewis Carroll Shelf Award and runner-up for the 1953 Newbery Medal. The book tells of a small pig whose life is spared twice, first by a farmer’s daughter and later by the ingenuity of a friendly spider. White drew inspiration for the tale from observing his own farm animals. The book was adapted into an animated film in 1972. White’s final children’s book, The Trumpet of the Swan (1970), chronicles the life of a mute trumpeter swan who learns to communicate by writing on a slate and by playing a trumpet. It was nominated for the National Book Award in 1971 and was included on the 1972 International Board on Books for Young People Honor List.

White received a multitude of honors, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1963), the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award (1970), and the National Medal for Literature (1971). In 1978 he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize special citation for his body of work. White died in Maine on October 1, 1985.

Compton’s Encyclopedia (Chicago, IL: Compton’s Encyclopedia, 2015).

Charlotte’s Web

A children’s novel by E.B. White, published in 1952, with illustrations by Garth Williams. This widely read tale, which is one of the classics of children’s literature, takes place on a farm in Maine and concerns a pig named Wilbur and his devoted friend Charlotte, the spider who manages to save his life by writing words in her web. White’s own life on a farm contributed to the tranquil, pastoral setting of the book and the careful observations of animal behaviour. The novel explores, among other things, the nature of friendship, a theme many adults as well as children have appreciated.

Encyclopedia Britannica (Chicago, IL: Encyclopædia Britannica, 2016).

 

Karen Swallow Prior

Karen Swallow Prior

Karen Swallow Prior is Professor of English at Liberty University and an award-winning teacher. She is a contributing writer for The Atlantic.com and for Christianity Today, where she blogs frequently at Her.meneutics. Her writing has appeared in Relevant, Think Christian, and Salvo. She is a Research Fellow with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, a member of INK: A Creative Collective, and a member of the Faith Advisory Council of the Humane Society of the United States.

Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me

Booked draws on classics like Great Expectations, delights such as Charlotte’s Web, the poetry of Hopkins and Donne, and more. This thoughtful, straight-up memoir will be pure pleasure for book-lovers, teachers, and anyone who has struggled to find a way to articulate the inexpressible through a love of story.

The Life Giving Power Of Words: Day 4

Charlotte’s Web
E.B. White

Ever since the spider had befriended him, he had done his best to live up to his reputation. When Charlotte’s web said SOME PIG, Wilbur had tried hard to look like some pig. When Charlotte’s web said TERRIFIC, Wilbur had tried to look terrific. And now that the web said RADIANT, he did everything possible to make himself glow.


Regardless of our attempted objectivity, every time we place a label on someone, we also impart a fierce load of baggage.  Labels spare no one and they are readily administered by parents, teachers and other children in the schoolyard.  Every child knows the pain from being teased or called a bad name, and unfortunately, some of them stick.  People tend to live up to that which they’ve been called.  Fortunately, this power can be used for good as well.

In Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me, Karen Swallow Prior says this:

When I was a child, I overheard my mother talking to some other adults. I was only half-attentive until I heard my mother speak my name. “Karen’s very perceptive,” my mother was telling them.

I piped up: “What does that mean? Perceptive?”

My mother hesitated, searching for another word. “Deep,” she finally explained. I wasn’t entirely sure what she meant by that either, but I do remember understanding that somehow, in some way, my mother noticed something that distinguished me, something she could name even if I could not. From that moment and for the rest of my life, my mother’s words—perceptive and many others—have helped me to be the thing she saw and named in me.

 

How have the words spoken about you by others influenced your life, whether positively or negatively?

Genesis 2:19

Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name.


Dig Deeper

Literature, Liturgy & The Arts


E.B. White and Charlotte’s Web

E.B. White

(1899–1985). Although his publications range from three well-known children’s books to numerous essays, books, and poems for adults, E.B. White’s works consistently display eloquent craftsmanship and a keen sense of observation.

Elwyn Brooks White was born on July 11, 1899, in Mount Vernon, New York. He attended Cornell University on a scholarship and served as editor in chief of its daily newspaper. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in English in 1921, he worked for the United Press, the American Legion News Service, and the Seattle Times. He took a job as a mess boy aboard an Alaskan ship in 1923 but returned to Mount Vernon later in the year to work in an advertising agency.

The founding of The New Yorker magazine in 1925 proved pivotal to White’s career. After having several submissions accepted, he joined the staff full-time in 1927. He married one of the editors, Katharine Sergeant Angell, in 1929 and became stepfather to her two children; a son was born to them the following year. Although the couple later left New York for a Maine farm, White remained a lifelong contributor to the magazine. He also wrote a monthly column entitled “One Man’s Meat” for Harper’s magazine from 1938 to 1943.

White’s publications for adults included The Lady Is Cold (1929), Is Sex Necessary? (1929, with James Thurber), Farewell to Model T (1936), The Fox of Peapack and Other Poems (1938), The Wild Flag (1946), The Second Tree from the Corner (1954), and The Points of My Compass (1962). Letters of E.B. White was published in 1976, and a collection of his essays appeared a year later. White also contributed to and revised several editions of William Strunk Jr.’s classic writer’s manual, The Elements of Style.

White’s first children’s book was Stuart Little (1945), an adventure story about a two-inch-(5-centimeter-)tall, mouselike son born to average human parents. White followed the success of that book with Charlotte’s Web (1952), winner of the 1958 Lewis Carroll Shelf Award and runner-up for the 1953 Newbery Medal. The book tells of a small pig whose life is spared twice, first by a farmer’s daughter and later by the ingenuity of a friendly spider. White drew inspiration for the tale from observing his own farm animals. The book was adapted into an animated film in 1972. White’s final children’s book, The Trumpet of the Swan (1970), chronicles the life of a mute trumpeter swan who learns to communicate by writing on a slate and by playing a trumpet. It was nominated for the National Book Award in 1971 and was included on the 1972 International Board on Books for Young People Honor List.

White received a multitude of honors, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1963), the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award (1970), and the National Medal for Literature (1971). In 1978 he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize special citation for his body of work. White died in Maine on October 1, 1985.

Compton’s Encyclopedia (Chicago, IL: Compton’s Encyclopedia, 2015).

Charlotte’s Web

A children’s novel by E.B. White, published in 1952, with illustrations by Garth Williams. This widely read tale, which is one of the classics of children’s literature, takes place on a farm in Maine and concerns a pig named Wilbur and his devoted friend Charlotte, the spider who manages to save his life by writing words in her web. White’s own life on a farm contributed to the tranquil, pastoral setting of the book and the careful observations of animal behaviour. The novel explores, among other things, the nature of friendship, a theme many adults as well as children have appreciated.

Encyclopedia Britannica (Chicago, IL: Encyclopædia Britannica, 2016).

 

Karen Swallow Prior

Karen Swallow Prior

Karen Swallow Prior is Professor of English at Liberty University and an award-winning teacher. She is a contributing writer for The Atlantic.com and for Christianity Today, where she blogs frequently at Her.meneutics. Her writing has appeared in Relevant, Think Christian, and Salvo. She is a Research Fellow with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, a member of INK: A Creative Collective, and a member of the Faith Advisory Council of the Humane Society of the United States.

Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me

Booked draws on classics like Great Expectations, delights such as Charlotte’s Web, the poetry of Hopkins and Donne, and more. This thoughtful, straight-up memoir will be pure pleasure for book-lovers, teachers, and anyone who has struggled to find a way to articulate the inexpressible through a love of story.

The Life Giving Power Of Words: Day 3

Charlotte’s Web
E.B. White

How’s this?” he asked, showing the ad to Charlotte.
It says ‘Crunchy.’ ‘Crunchy’ would be a good word to write in your web.”
Just the wrong idea,” replied Charlotte. “Couldn’t be worse. We don’t want Zuckerman to think Wilbur is crunchy. He might start thinking about crisp, crunchy bacon and tasty ham. That would put ideas into his head. We must advertise Wilbur’s noble qualities, not his tastiness.


When counseling people about to be married, I stress one point in particular:  Mind your words. People may forgive spoken cruelties, but they will never forget the sound of your voice saying them.  Neither will they forget the sound of you praying for them by name.  How profound it is that Jesus Christ, the very Son of God is known as the Word.

In Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me, Karen Swallow Prior says this:

Charlotte’s Web is a metaphor for the power words have to shape us into who others see us as well as how we see ourselves. For it is through words that Charlotte saves Wilbur’s life—not temporarily, as Fern has, but forever, at least the sort of forever that’s contained within the pages of a book. By knitting those words into her web which stretches above Wilbur’s pigpen, Charlotte makes the pig the talk of the town. No one, not even a farmer like Homer Zuckerman whose livelihood depends upon the fruit of his toiling, does away with a pig as special as Wilbur, one who gains widespread fame and visitors from near and far. Even when Wilbur loses first place at the County Fair to a much bigger pig, Wilbur’s life is no less secure than was my rabbit’s for his award of the red ribbon each year at the Monmouth Fair. Yet, Charlotte’s words not only save Wilbur’s life, they shape his life.

What are some examples of the power of words or names?

James 3:1-12

My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.” 


Dig Deeper

Literature, Liturgy & The Arts


E.B. White and Charlotte’s Web

E.B. White

(1899–1985). Although his publications range from three well-known children’s books to numerous essays, books, and poems for adults, E.B. White’s works consistently display eloquent craftsmanship and a keen sense of observation.

Elwyn Brooks White was born on July 11, 1899, in Mount Vernon, New York. He attended Cornell University on a scholarship and served as editor in chief of its daily newspaper. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in English in 1921, he worked for the United Press, the American Legion News Service, and the Seattle Times. He took a job as a mess boy aboard an Alaskan ship in 1923 but returned to Mount Vernon later in the year to work in an advertising agency.

The founding of The New Yorker magazine in 1925 proved pivotal to White’s career. After having several submissions accepted, he joined the staff full-time in 1927. He married one of the editors, Katharine Sergeant Angell, in 1929 and became stepfather to her two children; a son was born to them the following year. Although the couple later left New York for a Maine farm, White remained a lifelong contributor to the magazine. He also wrote a monthly column entitled “One Man’s Meat” for Harper’s magazine from 1938 to 1943.

White’s publications for adults included The Lady Is Cold (1929), Is Sex Necessary? (1929, with James Thurber), Farewell to Model T (1936), The Fox of Peapack and Other Poems (1938), The Wild Flag (1946), The Second Tree from the Corner (1954), and The Points of My Compass (1962). Letters of E.B. White was published in 1976, and a collection of his essays appeared a year later. White also contributed to and revised several editions of William Strunk Jr.’s classic writer’s manual, The Elements of Style.

White’s first children’s book was Stuart Little (1945), an adventure story about a two-inch-(5-centimeter-)tall, mouselike son born to average human parents. White followed the success of that book with Charlotte’s Web (1952), winner of the 1958 Lewis Carroll Shelf Award and runner-up for the 1953 Newbery Medal. The book tells of a small pig whose life is spared twice, first by a farmer’s daughter and later by the ingenuity of a friendly spider. White drew inspiration for the tale from observing his own farm animals. The book was adapted into an animated film in 1972. White’s final children’s book, The Trumpet of the Swan (1970), chronicles the life of a mute trumpeter swan who learns to communicate by writing on a slate and by playing a trumpet. It was nominated for the National Book Award in 1971 and was included on the 1972 International Board on Books for Young People Honor List.

White received a multitude of honors, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1963), the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award (1970), and the National Medal for Literature (1971). In 1978 he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize special citation for his body of work. White died in Maine on October 1, 1985.

Compton’s Encyclopedia (Chicago, IL: Compton’s Encyclopedia, 2015).

Charlotte’s Web

A children’s novel by E.B. White, published in 1952, with illustrations by Garth Williams. This widely read tale, which is one of the classics of children’s literature, takes place on a farm in Maine and concerns a pig named Wilbur and his devoted friend Charlotte, the spider who manages to save his life by writing words in her web. White’s own life on a farm contributed to the tranquil, pastoral setting of the book and the careful observations of animal behaviour. The novel explores, among other things, the nature of friendship, a theme many adults as well as children have appreciated.

Encyclopedia Britannica (Chicago, IL: Encyclopædia Britannica, 2016).

 

Karen Swallow Prior

Karen Swallow Prior

Karen Swallow Prior is Professor of English at Liberty University and an award-winning teacher. She is a contributing writer for The Atlantic.com and for Christianity Today, where she blogs frequently at Her.meneutics. Her writing has appeared in Relevant, Think Christian, and Salvo. She is a Research Fellow with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, a member of INK: A Creative Collective, and a member of the Faith Advisory Council of the Humane Society of the United States.

Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me

Booked draws on classics like Great Expectations, delights such as Charlotte’s Web, the poetry of Hopkins and Donne, and more. This thoughtful, straight-up memoir will be pure pleasure for book-lovers, teachers, and anyone who has struggled to find a way to articulate the inexpressible through a love of story.

The Life Giving Power Of Words: Day 2

Charlotte’s Web
E.B. White

These autumn days will shorten and grow cold. The leaves will shake loose from the trees and fall. Christmas will come, then the snows of winter. You will live to enjoy the beauty of the frozen world.… Winter will pass, the days will lengthen, the ice will melt in the pasture pond. The song sparrow will return and sing, the frogs will awake, the warm wind will blow again. All these sights and sounds and smells will be yours to enjoy, Wilbur—this lovely world, these precious days.


Children are often confronted with harsh realities for which they are inadequately equipped. Innocence is fragile.  Some of our earliest memories include bracing traumas of loss, and like every human being, children try to cope.  They turn to God in their own way and often find Him in His interaction with them through creation.  Just as seasons reflect in microcosm the seasons of our lives, our dominion over the animals is a means by which His watch-care over us can be better understood.  For children especially, this is high theology.

In Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me, Karen Swallow Prior says this:

Such love for animals, and a knowledge of the sometimes harsh realities of farm life, made me a ready reader of Charlotte’s Web. I easily identified with eight-year-old Fern. She put two and two together pretty quickly when she saw that her father was headed out to the hog house with an ax to “do away with”  the runt of a litter born the night before. I understood Fern’s desire to save the piglet’s life despite knowing, as she also knew, that the pig had been bred and born for eventual slaughter. Even so, I rejoiced with Fern at her father’s reluctant relent to Fern’s cries: the life of the runt would be spared and placed under Fern’s care.

Why are books about animals so appealing to young people?

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8

To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, And a time to die; A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted; A time to kill, And a time to heal; A time to break down, And a time to build up; A time to weep, And a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones; A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing; A time to gain, And a time to lose; A time to keep, And a time to throw away; A time to tear, And a time to sew; A time to keep silence, And a time to speak; A time to love, And a time to hate; A time of war, And a time of peace.

 


Dig Deeper

Literature, Liturgy & The Arts


Charlotte’s Web and Children Coping Through Literature

“In stage 5, the children played less with their toys, but when they did so their play often included references to disease and death. They placed toys in graves, Bluebond-Langner observes, and “sedentary activity, especially coloring, increased, but the number of themes decreased. Most pictures dealt with destruction, storms, fires, and other disasters”. Yet another thing that changed was “their choice and discussion of literature.” Bluebond-Langner reports that the most popular book among the children was Charlotte’s Web, and the chapter they most wanted read is the one in which Charlotte dies. Even those children who read other books would, “when reading or retelling a story, focus on those aspects of the story that dealt with death, disease, or violence—regardless of whether or not it was the main thrust of the story”.

Aware that they were dying, some children “felt they could not speak freely, even with people they trusted, about their awareness of the prognosis. These children would not engage others in a conversation about the prognosis or another child’s death. They would simply state their awareness and terminate the discussion. One six-year-old boy announced, ‘I’m not going to school anymore,’ and turned over on his side, refusing to speak to me. A seven-year-old girl blurted out to her brother, ‘I won’t be here for your birthday,’ and crawled under the sheets” (p. 189). Although such behavior was extreme, almost all the children stopped talking to people close to them. “They would withdraw from family and friends, either through expressions of anger or through silence. ‘Then she [Mother] won’t cry so much and be sad.’ Eventually, even conversations about the disease came to an end. The children asked no questions. They knew the answers.”

from Stanley Hauerwas, Naming the Silences : God, Medicine, and the Problem of Suffering (London; New York: T&T Clark, 2004), 137–138.

E.B. White and Charlotte’s Web

E.B. White

(1899–1985). Although his publications range from three well-known children’s books to numerous essays, books, and poems for adults, E.B. White’s works consistently display eloquent craftsmanship and a keen sense of observation.

Elwyn Brooks White was born on July 11, 1899, in Mount Vernon, New York. He attended Cornell University on a scholarship and served as editor in chief of its daily newspaper. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in English in 1921, he worked for the United Press, the American Legion News Service, and the Seattle Times. He took a job as a mess boy aboard an Alaskan ship in 1923 but returned to Mount Vernon later in the year to work in an advertising agency.

The founding of The New Yorker magazine in 1925 proved pivotal to White’s career. After having several submissions accepted, he joined the staff full-time in 1927. He married one of the editors, Katharine Sergeant Angell, in 1929 and became stepfather to her two children; a son was born to them the following year. Although the couple later left New York for a Maine farm, White remained a lifelong contributor to the magazine. He also wrote a monthly column entitled “One Man’s Meat” for Harper’s magazine from 1938 to 1943.

White’s publications for adults included The Lady Is Cold (1929), Is Sex Necessary? (1929, with James Thurber), Farewell to Model T (1936), The Fox of Peapack and Other Poems (1938), The Wild Flag (1946), The Second Tree from the Corner (1954), and The Points of My Compass (1962). Letters of E.B. White was published in 1976, and a collection of his essays appeared a year later. White also contributed to and revised several editions of William Strunk Jr.’s classic writer’s manual, The Elements of Style.

White’s first children’s book was Stuart Little (1945), an adventure story about a two-inch-(5-centimeter-)tall, mouselike son born to average human parents. White followed the success of that book with Charlotte’s Web (1952), winner of the 1958 Lewis Carroll Shelf Award and runner-up for the 1953 Newbery Medal. The book tells of a small pig whose life is spared twice, first by a farmer’s daughter and later by the ingenuity of a friendly spider. White drew inspiration for the tale from observing his own farm animals. The book was adapted into an animated film in 1972. White’s final children’s book, The Trumpet of the Swan (1970), chronicles the life of a mute trumpeter swan who learns to communicate by writing on a slate and by playing a trumpet. It was nominated for the National Book Award in 1971 and was included on the 1972 International Board on Books for Young People Honor List.

White received a multitude of honors, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1963), the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award (1970), and the National Medal for Literature (1971). In 1978 he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize special citation for his body of work. White died in Maine on October 1, 1985.

Compton’s Encyclopedia (Chicago, IL: Compton’s Encyclopedia, 2015).

Charlotte’s Web

A children’s novel by E.B. White, published in 1952, with illustrations by Garth Williams. This widely read tale, which is one of the classics of children’s literature, takes place on a farm in Maine and concerns a pig named Wilbur and his devoted friend Charlotte, the spider who manages to save his life by writing words in her web. White’s own life on a farm contributed to the tranquil, pastoral setting of the book and the careful observations of animal behaviour. The novel explores, among other things, the nature of friendship, a theme many adults as well as children have appreciated.

Encyclopedia Britannica (Chicago, IL: Encyclopædia Britannica, 2016).

 

Karen Swallow Prior

Karen Swallow Prior

Karen Swallow Prior is Professor of English at Liberty University and an award-winning teacher. She is a contributing writer for The Atlantic.com and for Christianity Today, where she blogs frequently at Her.meneutics. Her writing has appeared in Relevant, Think Christian, and Salvo. She is a Research Fellow with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, a member of INK: A Creative Collective, and a member of the Faith Advisory Council of the Humane Society of the United States.

Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me

Booked draws on classics like Great Expectations, delights such as Charlotte’s Web, the poetry of Hopkins and Donne, and more. This thoughtful, straight-up memoir will be pure pleasure for book-lovers, teachers, and anyone who has struggled to find a way to articulate the inexpressible through a love of story.

The Life Giving Power Of Words: Day 1

Charlotte’s Web
E.B. White

Fern came slowly down the stairs. Her eyes were red from crying. As she approached her chair, the carton wobbled, and there was a scratching noise. Fem looked at her father. Then she lifted the lid of the car­ton. There, inside, looking up at her, was the newborn pig. It was a white one. The morning light shone through its ears, turning them pink.

“He’s yours,” said Mr. Arable. “Saved from an un­timely death. And may the good Lord forgive me for this foolishness.”

Fern couldn’t take her eyes off the tiny pig. “Oh,” she whispered. “Oh, look at him! He’s absolutely perfect.”


What began as a humble children’s story in 1952 has since become (according to Publisher’s Weekly) the best-selling paperback of all time.  The power of the story resides with the creatures and the eternal truths that can be gleaned through their simple interactions. In many ways, childhood pets are likewise great teachers for children.  Their lessons include the giving and receiving of unconditional love, the importance of nurture and a context to understand life’s beginning and end.

In Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me, Karen Swallow Prior says this:

Having all my life had animals who, whether they slept on the bed or in the barn, were considered part of the family, I’ve always lamented the particular poverty of children raised without pets. Learning responsibility by taking care of these fellow members of the created order was one of my parents’ many gifts to me. I’ve no doubt that the greatest richness of a deeply rich childhood came—along with the love of my parents and the love of books—from the love of animals. These three things are so intertwined that it is difficult, if not impossible, for me to separate for very long, any single thread in the tapestry of my childhood.

What role did animals or pets have in your childhood? What role do they have now?

Isaiah 40:11

He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, And carry them in His bosom, And gently lead those who are with young.


Dig Deeper

Literature, Liturgy & The Arts


E.B. White and Charlotte’s Web

E.B. White

(1899–1985). Although his publications range from three well-known children’s books to numerous essays, books, and poems for adults, E.B. White’s works consistently display eloquent craftsmanship and a keen sense of observation.

Elwyn Brooks White was born on July 11, 1899, in Mount Vernon, New York. He attended Cornell University on a scholarship and served as editor in chief of its daily newspaper. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in English in 1921, he worked for the United Press, the American Legion News Service, and the Seattle Times. He took a job as a mess boy aboard an Alaskan ship in 1923 but returned to Mount Vernon later in the year to work in an advertising agency.

The founding of The New Yorker magazine in 1925 proved pivotal to White’s career. After having several submissions accepted, he joined the staff full-time in 1927. He married one of the editors, Katharine Sergeant Angell, in 1929 and became stepfather to her two children; a son was born to them the following year. Although the couple later left New York for a Maine farm, White remained a lifelong contributor to the magazine. He also wrote a monthly column entitled “One Man’s Meat” for Harper’s magazine from 1938 to 1943.

White’s publications for adults included The Lady Is Cold (1929), Is Sex Necessary? (1929, with James Thurber), Farewell to Model T (1936), The Fox of Peapack and Other Poems (1938), The Wild Flag (1946), The Second Tree from the Corner (1954), and The Points of My Compass (1962). Letters of E.B. White was published in 1976, and a collection of his essays appeared a year later. White also contributed to and revised several editions of William Strunk Jr.’s classic writer’s manual, The Elements of Style.

White’s first children’s book was Stuart Little (1945), an adventure story about a two-inch-(5-centimeter-)tall, mouselike son born to average human parents. White followed the success of that book with Charlotte’s Web (1952), winner of the 1958 Lewis Carroll Shelf Award and runner-up for the 1953 Newbery Medal. The book tells of a small pig whose life is spared twice, first by a farmer’s daughter and later by the ingenuity of a friendly spider. White drew inspiration for the tale from observing his own farm animals. The book was adapted into an animated film in 1972. White’s final children’s book, The Trumpet of the Swan (1970), chronicles the life of a mute trumpeter swan who learns to communicate by writing on a slate and by playing a trumpet. It was nominated for the National Book Award in 1971 and was included on the 1972 International Board on Books for Young People Honor List.

White received a multitude of honors, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1963), the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award (1970), and the National Medal for Literature (1971). In 1978 he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize special citation for his body of work. White died in Maine on October 1, 1985.

Compton’s Encyclopedia (Chicago, IL: Compton’s Encyclopedia, 2015).

Charlotte’s Web

A children’s novel by E.B. White, published in 1952, with illustrations by Garth Williams. This widely read tale, which is one of the classics of children’s literature, takes place on a farm in Maine and concerns a pig named Wilbur and his devoted friend Charlotte, the spider who manages to save his life by writing words in her web. White’s own life on a farm contributed to the tranquil, pastoral setting of the book and the careful observations of animal behaviour. The novel explores, among other things, the nature of friendship, a theme many adults as well as children have appreciated.

Encyclopedia Britannica (Chicago, IL: Encyclopædia Britannica, 2016).

 

Karen Swallow Prior

Karen Swallow Prior

Karen Swallow Prior is Professor of English at Liberty University and an award-winning teacher. She is a contributing writer for The Atlantic.com and for Christianity Today, where she blogs frequently at Her.meneutics. Her writing has appeared in Relevant, Think Christian, and Salvo. She is a Research Fellow with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, a member of INK: A Creative Collective, and a member of the Faith Advisory Council of the Humane Society of the United States.

Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me

Booked draws on classics like Great Expectations, delights such as Charlotte’s Web, the poetry of Hopkins and Donne, and more. This thoughtful, straight-up memoir will be pure pleasure for book-lovers, teachers, and anyone who has struggled to find a way to articulate the inexpressible through a love of story.