This week I started reading “Charlotte’s Web” to my class. Year after year I marvel at E.B. White’s word choice. His phrasing leaves me in awe. It’s so rich that I often stop and read sentences over again, savoring the words like a lump of dark chocolate on my tongue.
From a young age I’ve been a collector of words. I’m constantly listening for snippets of interesting conversation. My ears stand at attention for striking word combinations. A plastic spelling trophy along with stacks of journals brimming with angst filled teenage poetry are evidence of my history as a wordie.
I delight in helping my students collect and add words to their budding writing arsenal. A couple of days ago, I was discussing Charlotte’s Web with one student in particular. She was hopping around, sheets of sunset colored hair bouncing, telling me how excited she was to read the book because the movie was so good. I prepared to launch into my creed on why the book is always better than the movie and how if she liked the movie, then she’ll love the book, etc., when this little pixie left me speechless.
The day before a huge storm had rolled in. It was the kind of storm with lightning that razors the sky in two, the kind of storm with raindrops that smash against windowpanes, the kind of storm that requires me to turn the lights low and read “Thundercake” by Patricia Polacco.
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of reading anything Patricia Polacco’s put on paper, then you know you are in the presence of a magician who turns letters into words into phrases that leave me begging for more.
The storm and the book inspired a torrent of weather poetry in Writers’ Workshop. Words like poured and rumbled and struck fell out of their mouths onto the pages. It was delicious.
So as I took a deep breath to deliver my sermon on books vs. movies, this little girl stopped bouncing and from behind her auburn tresses said
I loved the movie because it was such a good story it made my eyes pour.
And there it was.
It made my eyes pour.
My ears pricked up at her poignant pairing of words.
This six-year-old reached back into our weather words, grabbed one out, pitched it into another context, and encapsulated just the right emotion.
She assures me she won’t cry during the book because she already knows it’s sad. Me? I make no such claim. E.B. White’s stunning writing has caused me to brush away more than a tear or two, mostly when his words slowly begin appearing in the writing of my young wordies.