Remember Charlotte's Web? The Yearling? Where the Red Fern Growns? What about Mr. Popper's Penguins, The BFG or Harriet the Spy?

Wandering through the aisles of the children's lit section of my local bookstore, I wondered if kids still read the same books we had read growing up. Judy Blume, Roald Dahl, Madeleine L'Engle—they had all played a huge role in many childhoods. Do people even remember a non-Johnny Depp Willy Wonka?

Before there was Harry Potter, Babe or Pikachu, there was a pig named Wilbur and a barn spider named Charlotte who was intent on saving his life.

Charlotte's Webat the Long Beach Playhouse is just one outlet to expose the children of Generation Z to the classic story of barnyard animals and the true meaning of friendship, loyalty and sacrifice.

Penned by E.B. White and first published in 1952, the story begins when a farmer, John Arable, discovers a piglet that is the runt of his litter. His daughter Fern, who discovers she has the ability to understand animals, convinces him to keep it alive, and she nurses Wilbur back to health. Soon after, the pig is then sold to her uncle. Wilbur's lonely there, but only for a little while—Charlotte the gray spider, some sheep, a conniving rat named Templeton and many other barnyard creatures all befriend the terrific, radiant and humble pig. And when the farmer's plans to make Wilbur his Christmas dinner are unearthed, Charlotte and the rest of the farm hatch a plan to keep Wilbur alive.

Sure a live-action/computer-animated feature-film adaptation of the novel was recently released (starring the always-creeptacular Dakota Fanning as Fern, with Julia Roberts voicing Charlotte), but a trip to the playhouse may just be the cure to your kid's summer cabin fever. It's also better than plopping the kids in front of the television screen for even longer than usual.

And who knows—maybe it'll even make them (or you!) want to pick up a book that's not Harry Potter.

Charlotte's Web at the Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach, (562) 494-1014; . Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. Through Sept. 1. $10-$15.


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