James Howe's book Bunnicula is a children's paranormal mystery about a vampire rabbit told from the perspective of the family dog. It's the novel that first sparked my creative writing itch when I was very young. Due to this, I often refer to James Howe as my favorite author. He is, without a doubt, the person outside of people I know personally who has had the greatest influence on my life. I thought it would be a fun experiment to read my favorite author's favorite book, and so I went to Howe's website in search of what this book might be. On his frequently asked questions (FAQs) page he reveals it's the children's classic Charlotte's Web by E. B. White. While I saw the movie version of the book many years ago as a child, I'd never read the book. Therefore, I decided to pick it up from my local library and give it a read!
My Review of Charlotte's Web:
I gave Charlotte's Web 4 stars. This novel definitely had a lot of positive attributes. I found Wilbur to be adorable and appropriately naive given his young age. Charlotte, while often blunt, was very confident, practical, and maternal. Among the human characters I truly loved Fern as she was selfless and kind. While most of the characters stayed consistent, I did notice the sheep went from unjustly hating Wilbur to wanting to help save him with no explanation.
I liked the message of friendship and teamwork within the novel in regards to how all the animals banded together to save Wilbur. I felt the novel could also potentially help children who suffer from arachnophobia. It doesn't sugarcoat anything about spiders, but rather teaches children about them via a friendly character. The novel also doesn't shy away from heavy topics like death, and I felt like it was handled very delicately.
Unfortunately, this novel was kind of a mess in terms of its narrative style. The narrative didn't seem to know what it wanted to do with Fern's character. She would just be randomly inserted into the story at different points. The author also had a horrible, constant habit of over explaining and describing every little detail including irrelevant ones. This made the story feel far too repetitive. The one thing I will say that was successful about it was that it did a good job of anthropomorphism (or giving animals human characteristics and emotions). This was probably the only similarity I saw to Howe's work, as he also does this with his animal characters in the Bunnicula books.
Overall, I'm happy to have read Charlotte's Web. I can't say that I would have picked it up had I not done so for the blog, but I can definitely see its appeal. I think White came up with a gem of a story idea that is incredibly heartfelt. However, its execution was flawed. I do think it would resonate more with its intended audience of young children, so I wish I'd read it when I was little. Even still, I think the beauty of classic literature is that it's timeless and can touch anyone, including the author of books about vampire bunnies.
A Nostalgic Look Back at the Bunnicula Books: https://www.haleysbookhaven.com/post/a-nostalgic-look-back-at-the-bunnicula-books-by-james-howe-50th-blog