Anybody who writes down to children is simply wasting … time. You have to write up, not down. Children are demanding. Children love words that give them a hard time, provided they are in a context that absorbs their attention.
E.B.White, “The Art of the Essay” (Paris Review, 48, 1969)
… and therein, you have, I think the secret to why E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web continues to delight children (and their parents) more than 50 years after its debut. Reporting from a household where there’s a cardboard box labeled “Zuckerman’s Famous Pig” in the kitchen, a two-year-old who thinks he’s Wilbur, a seven-year-old playing Fern, a dog cast as Charlotte, and a “I’m too cool for this” almost 10-year-old who drops everything and sits down to listen the second “Fern” starts playing the audio book of Charlotte’s Web for the one-hundredth time.
Here, by the way, is a great story by NPR’s Maureen Corrigan about how the book was “spun.”