Top 100 Children’s Novels (#9)
#9 Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (1908)
(#1)(#1)(#1)(#1)(#1)(#1)(#1)(#1) (#1)(#1)(#1)(#1)(#2)(#2)(#2)(#2) (#2)(#2)(#2)(#2)(#2)(#2)(#3)(#3) (#3)(#3)(#4)(#4)(#4)(#4)(#4)(#4) (#4)(#5)(#5)(#5)(#5)(#5)(#6)(#7) (#7)(#7)(#7)(#7)(#8)(#8)(#9)(#9) (#9)(#9)(#10)(#10)(#10)(#10)(#10) – 365 points
Without her feminism wouldn’t have made sense. Every character, every setting, every scene, is by turns uproariously hilarious, deeply touching, inspirational, and memorable. Anne Shirley is the spunkiest and, in my opinion, best heroine of all time. – Billy
Pretty much the gold standard for historical fiction with a dreamy-eyed, book-loving firebrand of a protagonist whose imagination gets her up to no good. You can’t throw a rock into a library without hitting a host of Anne wannabes. And it’s also possible that you can’t throw a rock into a children’s literature conference without hitting a passel of ladies who ARE Anne Shirley. It’s not just a book, it’s a lifestyle. Plus, I have to respect any character with a compulsive drive to emphasize the silent e at the end of her name. (Did I mention my name was Brooke-with-an-e?) – Brooke Shirts (Casa Camisas)
If my childhood self was Ramona, Anne is who I wanted to be. If at some point I don’t get to put on a dress with puffed sleeves and run down the White Way of Delight to the Lake of Shinning Waters, my life will be a pale shadow of what it should be. After reading this for the first time at the age of 12 or 13 I re-read and re-read the passage where Gilbert finds Anne stranded under the bridge. So much romance for my little twitterpated heart! Although the rest of the series can’t compare to the first I have read them all through several times. I am enchanted by the Victorian delicacy of the language, particularly when Anne is pregnant. What “secret smiles” and “small hopes for the future” can covey in reference to biology. – DaNae (The Librariest)
After becoming acquainted with Anne I immediately began to divide the world into ‘kindreds’ and ‘non-kindreds’ and started looking for my Gilbert Blythe. (Forget Mr. Darcy! Give me Gilbert anyday.) – Jennifer Sauls
Why is Anne so eternally awesome? Is it because we wish we could have a friend just like Anne or that we wish we could BE her? I spent most of my childhood looking for "my Diana Barry" and when I finally found her, it turned out I was HER Diana Barry instead, because she was obviously the Anne of the two of us. So having a friend like Anne is the more awesome option, I think. You avoid having to face most of the embarrassing traumas head-on that way. – A.M. Weir (Amy’s Library of ROCK)
I’m Canadian. It’s kind of my duty to love this. I was obsessed as a kid. – Stacy Dillon, Lower School Librarian, LREI – Little Red School House & Elisabeth Irwin High School
L.M. Montgomery, to my mind, single-handedly destroys the notion that authors give themselves initials as their first names so as to throw off potential male readers who wouldn’t want a book penned by a woman. Is there any book in this world girlier than Anne of Green Gables? Or, for that matter, any other of Ms. Montgomery’s works? Be that as it may be, tis a fine novel for both the boy and girl set. Aside from Pippi Longstocking, there’s no other literary redhead of quite the same tomboyish aspects as our Anne.
How it came to be: In 100 Best Books for Children by Anita Silvey we learn that when Ms. Montgomery began writing the book she, "first intended the story to be a mere seven chapters long, ideal for a serial treatment in a Sunday school paper." That plan quickly fell by the wayside and so she submitted it to several publishers. It was rejected multiple times, and according to What Katy Read, after she got four rejections in a row, "Montgomery put the manuscript in an old hat-box, intending at some later date to cut it back to its original proportions. But she changed her mind when she rediscovered the forgotten work in the winter of 1906, and decided to try it out once more." So it reached L.C. Page and Company. They offered her "either an outright fee of $500 or a royalty of 9 cents a book." Thank the heavens above she went with the royalty. Her first royalty check = $1730. The book was an instant hit.
Obviously the publisher wanted sequels and she obliged, though she would say that the, "freshness of the idea was gone . . . I simply built it. Anne, grown-up, couldn’t be made as quaint and unexpected as the child Anne." Seven books would follow, but they never quite lived up to the first.
Book #1 remains hugely beloved. Indeed as recently as December 2009 a first edition of this book sold at auction for $37,500. This smashed the previous child vintage children’s novel record of a mere $24,000. Sotheby’s also auctioned off the book in 2005, but that sale was marred slightly by the fact that they referred to the title as "a beloved American children’s book." One must assume that the Canadians were NOT pleased.
There haven’t been any sequels by other folks, partly because Montgomery was clever enough to write them herself. There was, however, a recent prequel. In conjunction with Anne’s 100th birthday, Budge Wilson wrote Before Green Gables. It met with mixed reviews, though many folks liked it. It has, however, largely been forgotten since its publication.
- I do believe you can visit Lucy Maud Montgomery’s house if you like.
The longer a perennially popular book has been around, the more difficult it is to find all the covers. This is just a small selection of what I found. For a complete collection of covers, go to The Green Gables Project. In this tiny sample you’ll find:
The funniest of the bunch:
Anne as hippie dippy flower child.
And from overseas:
Periodically the book gets filmed. Not as often as Little Women or anything, but continually just the same. First there was the 1919 version. Not on YouTube, obviously, but you can listen to the theme if you really want to. Back in 1934 there was this version, directed by George Nichols Jr.:
Then came a 1956 version, but that’s probably best left forgotten. No, the Anne that is undeniably the best there is, bar none, came in 1985. It was produced for television, brilliantly cast, and when people of my generation think of the book it’s hard not to conjure up Megan Follows’ face.
I call this the superfastspoilerific version of the series.
And, of course, there was the inevitable Japanese animated series. One of the stranger openings of a television show I’ve seen, though kind of nice.
Filed under: Top 100 Children's Novels (2010)
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
SLJ Blog Network