Thursday, April 13, 2006

Easter preparations

Today is Maundy Thursday, and Passover, and Holy Week is passing me by without a comment. It's been that kind of a month, I guess. Still, the pollen is out in full force so it's obviously spring, and time for these celebrations of new life, rebirth, hope. I'm teaching novels in children's lit that track the season nicely, actually. I've just finished teaching Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak, which is a resurrection story of sorts. There's a lovely extended metaphor throughout the novel of a tree, leafless and dead at the beginning but bursting into leaf by the end. "Now the green blade riseth" could be the soundtrack.

And tomorrow, Good Friday, I'll be teaching Charlotte's Web, an Easter story in which the sacrificial lamb (ok, he's really a pig) avoids his fate. Some people read Charlotte's death as a substitute for Wilbur's, a Christ-like sacrifice, though I'm not sure I really see the same substitutive logic going on here. For that, of course, see The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, which I taught earlier in the semester.

I have these things on the brain as I try to finish out this semester and plan for next fall, when I'll teach a seminar on children's literature and theology. In the meantime I just can't help sharing one of my favorite passages from Charlotte's Web, perhaps from all of children's literature. Here it is:

"…You will live, secure and safe, Wilbur. Nothing can harm you now. 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, for you mean a great deal to Zuckerman and he will not harm you, ever. 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…"
Charlotte stopped. A moment later a tear came to Wilbur's eye. "Oh, Charlotte," he said. "To think that when I first met you I thought you were cruel and bloodthirsty!"
When he recovered from his emotion, he spoke again.
"Why did you do all this for me?" he asked. "I don't deserve it. I've never done anything for you."
"You have been my friend," replied Charlotte. "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." (pp. 163-164)


Lilian said...

I love Charlotte's Web.

Happy Easter!

Library Mama said...

I haven't yet read Speak, but I'll have to add it to my wishlist.

Of course, Charlotte's Web and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe are standard fare. My boys loved it when I read them those classics. One of the greatest joys of being a teacher-librarian is enjoying the opportunity year after year of introducing new kids to wonderful literature, and watching them "catch the bug".

Good luck with your plans for your course in the fall. It sounds fascinating. Wish I lived close enough to join in!

I wish you and your family all the blessings of the Easter season.

Libby said...

Library Mama, just be aware that Speak is definitely YA, not for kids under, say, 14.

Thanks for the kind words about my course. I'm looking forward to it.