Top 100 Children's Novels #8: Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
#8 Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (1908)
Oh how I wanted to be Anne Shirley growing up! I could relate to her so much-I was imaginative and had a temper to match, so I always felt as though Anne was a kindred spirit. And who wouldn’t want to end up with Gilbert Blythe?? This is a series that whenever I would read them, I would find myself in a “reading fog”. I would stop reading and have to remember that I wasn’t on Prince Edward Island with Anne and Diana. It always seemed like such a magical place and I wished for those books to be real. A friend said it best when she told me “there’s always a Anne book for every stage of life.” I think that’s what makes them timeless. – Sarah (Green Bean Teen Queen)
Anne took this skinny, awkward, mousy-haired suburban lass from the age of bell bottoms and sunset-print polyester shirts and dropped her into a world of Victorian charm. A world of puffed sleeves, bosom friends, strolls down wooded lanes, and unbridled imagination. I must have reread Gilbert rescuing Anne from under the bridge a million times. Oh, the transforming power of literature on a young romantic soul. Anne, how I dreamed of being you. – DaNae Leu
L. M. Montgomery’s books are the sort of books I reread every few years just to feel that life is good. – Sondra Eklund
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 in 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 relatively 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:
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.
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 (and, stranger still, translated into Italian)P
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.
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