Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Tag Archives | Anne of Green Gables

Melanie Heuiser Hill

Melanie Heuiser Hill's Self on the Shelf

This stack is large­ly the Self-On-The-Shelf stack of my child­hood. There would be stacks of oth­ers, as well, you under­stand. I was sur­prised how many were miss­ing when I went to pull books for this col­umn, actu­al­ly. Where were all the Judy Blume books? Where was How To Eat Fried Worms? And, I sup­pose if I’m real­ly hon­est, I would need to include a small stack of Guin­ness Book of World Records from the late seventies…I wore the cov­ers off those books. Alas, some of my favorites from child­hood were library books that I checked out again and again but nev­er owned. And I sus­pect the world record books were thrown out by my moth­er who did not share my fas­ci­na­tion. (The lady with the longest fin­ger­nails in the world is the one that sticks forty years on….)

But the books in this stack — these were deeply deeply loved  by me as a child. The Pooh books are the ones I have very clear mem­o­ries of my Mom read­ing to my broth­er and me. I know she read oth­er things to us, but these are the sto­ries and poems I remem­ber. She gave me the leather bound edi­tions when I had lit­tle ones of my own — our orig­i­nal copies, which were paper­backs, are a bit frail look­ing and might not have sur­vived anoth­er generation’s love.

Bev­er­ly Cleary’s Ramona books — and the Hen­ry Hug­gins and Rib­sy books, too— were favorites when I was in sec­ond and third grade and div­ing into inde­pen­dent chap­ter book read­ing. I picked up Ramona The Brave off a RIF table when I was in sec­ond grade. Mrs. Perkins, my teacher, read sev­er­al Cleary books to us and I was, and remain, a huge fan.

Ramona Quimby

Ramona Quim­by, illus­trat­ed by Louis Dar­ling, from the books by Bev­er­ly Cleary

But Charlotte’s Web is the first chap­ter book I clear­ly remem­ber read­ing on my own — same year, same teacher. I fell so com­plete­ly into this sto­ry that I couldn’t bear to go out to recess. I couldn’t even extract myself from the sto­ry to close the book and get my boots and coat on—it felt phys­i­cal­ly impos­si­ble. I remem­ber Mrs. Perkins say­ing that just once I might stay in dur­ing recess to read. I’m sure I didn’t even say thank you, just kept turn­ing the pages, know­ing I had to fin­ish since I’d have to go out the next day.

From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweil­er was kept from much of my ele­men­tary school because I so con­sis­tent­ly had it checked out from our school library. I was required to return it for a week every once in awhile “to see if some­one else might want to read it,” but I vol­un­teered to re-shelve it so I could hide it behind oth­er books and be assured it’d be there for me the next week. (This auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal detail found its way into my nov­el Giant Pump­kin Suite—dif­fer­ent book, but one also on this list!) The Mixed-Up Files won the New­bery Award the year before I was born. It is bril­liant, as are all of E.L. Konigsburg’s books, in my opin­ion. The book­ends of the nov­el are impor­tant, but if you’d asked me when I was a kid about Mrs. Basil E. Frankweil­er, I would’ve said her name was sim­ply in the title, for rea­sons I real­ly didn’t under­stand…. For me, the book was entire­ly about sleep­ing at the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art. I have always had a fas­ci­na­tion with what it would be like to be locked in after hours at a muse­um, or a library, or a gro­cery store — to just have run of the place and have it all to myself. I don’t know if I had the fas­ci­na­tion before read­ing this book or if this book spawned it, but I remem­ber tak­ing notes on Clau­dia Kincaid’s bril­liant plans of hid­ing in the bath­rooms until secu­ri­ty was gone, blend­ing in with school groups dur­ing the day so as not to be noticed, fish­ing the coins out of the foun­tain to spend at the automat, etc. I nev­er owned this book as a child, but I bought it as an adult at the Met the first time I went to New York City. I read it on the plane home…which was the first time I noticed Mrs. Basil E. Frankweil­er!

Har­ri­et The Spy was a favorite of mine around the same time as The Mixed-Up Files, and between the two of them, I fell in love with New York City decades before I ever set foot in the city. I loved Har­ri­et because she was not nice — her blunt voice was often the tween voice in my head — and because she kept a note­book. I used to ask for note­books and pens/pencils for Christ­mas and birth­days. I loved that Har­ri­et did her spy­ing and wrote down what she noticed in ALL CAPS. Some­times I do that in my note­book, in homage. When Ole Gol­ly gave Har­ri­et advice, I con­sid­ered it advice to me, as well. This book, maybe more than any oth­er, gave me a yearn­ing to be a writer.

And the best for last…. The Anne of Green Gables series. I received the first nov­el in this series for my tenth birth­day. Over the next few years I received the next in the series each birth­day and Christ­mas. I love this series so much it makes my heart ache. And, as I wrote here, I per­pet­u­al­ly read them as an adult. I always have one going. It’s not great for my writ­ing. L.M. Mont­gomery wrote in a dif­fer­ent time, and style has changed con­sid­er­ably. I always have to cut my drafts by half — and I still use more words than many writ­ing today. But for char­ac­ter study and emo­tion­al arc, I think I can still learn from Mont­gomery. In any event, there’s not a bet­ter way to end the day than read­ing a chap­ter of Anne, as far as I’m con­cerned. I com­mend the prac­tice of “per­pet­u­al read­ing” to you — what­ev­er series makes your heart glad.       

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Welcome to Lizard Motel

There is a spe­cial peri­od of … child­hood, approx­i­mate­ly from five or six to eleven or twelve — between the striv­ings of ani­mal infan­cy and the storms of ado­les­cence — when the nat­ur­al world is expe­ri­enced in some high­ly evoca­tive way … It is prin­ci­pal­ly to this mid­dle age range … that writ­ers say they return in mem­o­ry in order to renew the pow­er and impulse to cre­ate. —Edith Cobb

Welcome to Lizard MotelWel­come to Lizard Motel: Chil­dren, Sto­ries,
and the Mys­tery of Mak­ing Things Up, A Mem­oir
Bar­bara Fein­berg
Bea­con Press, 2004

At first glance, Wel­come to Lizard Motel, with its cov­er illus­tra­tion of a bureau and a lizard’s tail (pre­sum­ably) stick­ing out of one draw­er, seems an unlike­ly book about children’s lit­er­a­ture. That’s what I thought when I saw it on the edu­ca­tion shelf in Bor­ders. The sub­ti­tle, though, Chil­dren, Sto­ries, and the Mys­tery of Mak­ing Things Up, reeled me in.  

Fein­berg begins her mem­oir on a day in which her twelve-year-old son must read a New­bery-win­ning nov­el as his sum­mer assign­ment. He hates the book, hat­ed the book he had to read the sum­mer before (anoth­er New­bery medal­ist). She takes her son to the pool and learns from his friends that they all despise those books. Fein­berg decides to read them her­self. 

The first third of Lizard Motel is devot­ed to Feinberg’s thoughts about “prob­lem nov­els,” pop­u­lar in the 70s and still going strong in more lit­er­ary iter­a­tions through the 80s to the mid-90s.  Lyri­cal writ­ing pulls her through many nar­ra­tives, but she feels depressed by the bleak end­ings. “Don’t you think there’s an exces­sive amount of angst [in mod­ern children’s books]?” she asked a librar­i­an. “Weren’t our books cozi­er?” She remem­bers read­ing Anne of Green Gables and Eleanor Estes’ The Hun­dred Dress­es, books that didn’t shy away from harsh­er real­i­ties, but didn’t cheat the read­er. She takes to task books such as The Pig­man, Don’t Hurt Lau­rie, Steffie Can’t Come Out to Play, Dicey’s Song, Bridge to Ter­abithia, and oth­ers that fea­ture trau­ma.

Feinberg’s views spark con­tro­ver­sies. She rails against children’s books as teach­ing tools. “As a tool to fur­ther the notions of, say, mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism, an approach that could be deli­cious­ly rich, but which seemed nev­er able to move freely, since the strict humor­less watch­dog of Polit­i­cal Cor­rect­ness was always nip­ping at its heels.”    

When her sev­en-year-old daugh­ter invites Fein­berg to her school for a pre­sen­ta­tion of class writ­ing, Fein­berg exam­ines the Writ­ing Project then head­ed by Lucy Calkins at Colum­bia University’s Teach­ers Col­lege.  Her daughter’s class had been instruct­ed by a grad­u­ate from that pro­gram, who had the stu­dents write mem­oirs.  Each child’s first-per­son sto­ry was in the vein of, “My moth­er always cooked vanil­la pud­ding for me” or “My father put me to bed every night.” The past tense made the sto­ries sound like eulo­gies, as if “this moment we are shar­ing togeth­er has van­ished.” Young chil­dren don’t nat­u­ral­ly reflect on their pasts. One boy said he’d rather write about haunt­ed hous­es than his ter­mi­nal­ly ill sis­ter.

Com­ments on Lizard Motel range from “poor exe­cu­tion” to “delight­ful.” Some argue the mer­its of a par­ent writ­ing about children’s lit­er­a­ture, appar­ent­ly for­get­ting the book is a mem­oir and why shouldn’t par­ents dis­cuss what their chil­dren are read­ing? Sand­wiched between prob­lem nov­els and the Writ­ing Project is Feinberg’s own child­hood, the books that “pulled her out from some shad­ow I hadn’t known I’d been hid­ing in,” and, best of all, a pro­gram she began called Sto­ry Shop.  I longed to be one of those lucky kids who came week­ly to the rent­ed church base­ment to write and cre­ate. 

Should this book be in children’s lit­er­a­ture col­lec­tions? Maybe, if you enjoy prose like this: “I was charmed that the tiny chairs [from her Sto­ry Shop room] cast their own shad­ows, and each time I left and came back, I felt that some­one had just been, a moment before, sit­ting in the chairs. Once or twice I won­dered if it might be the chairs them­selves that were alive …” Maybe, if you believe an “out­sider” can express the view that not all chil­dren want to read sad, real­is­tic fic­tion. 

This book remind­ed me that when I was a kid, we had no assigned books, only the free­dom to choose what­ev­er we want­ed. I browsed the library shelves, avoid­ing any book with an N stick­er, indi­cat­ing a New­bery win­ner. To my nine-year-old self, those books were like med­i­cine.

As a children’s writer, Feinberg’s book made me want to write a Valen­tine to all the books I’d loved as a child. So, I wrote my own mem­oir for my master’s the­sis in children’s lit­er­a­ture. Yet my Valen­tine, begun in joy, turned dark as my trau­mat­ic child­hood crept in. I didn’t write the book I want­ed to. After re-read­ing Wel­come to Lizard Motel, I hope one day to pay prop­er trib­ute to the books that changed my life, minus the doom and gloom.

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Going to Camp

Mother Daughter Book CampAs sum­mer begins, it’s pos­si­ble there is no more ubiq­ui­tous expe­ri­ence for Amer­i­can chil­dren than sum­mer camp. Whether it’s a day camp or a sleep­away camp, an art or music camp, a Girl Scout or church camp, there are some things that most camps have in com­mon: the out­doors, get­ting along with oth­er kids and coun­selors, and new expe­ri­ences.

Or, as Heather Vogel Fred­er­ick writes in her lat­est Moth­er-Daugh­ter Book Club book, Moth­er-Daugh­ter Book Camp, the mot­to of Camp Love­joy is “Broad­en­ing Hori­zons for Over a Cen­tu­ry.” Girls are encour­aged to stretch out­side their com­fort zones.

When the sub­ject of sum­mer camp comes up among my friends, the dis­cus­sion turns to crafts learned (mac­a­roni-adorned some­thing), songs sung, injuries sus­tained, fam­i­ly week­ends, and unfor­get­table coun­selors.

Moth­er-Daugh­ter Book Camp cap­tures this expe­ri­ence with spot-on details, the emo­tions of being away at camp (remem­ber that feel­ing of home­sick­ness? who were these strangers? how would you make it through [how­ev­er long you were slat­ed to be there]? how could you ever leave?), the food, the one most mem­o­rable expe­ri­ence, and those won­der­ful friend­ships.

Mother Daughter Book Club Series

I’m a big fan of this series of books which began with The Moth­er-Daugh­ter Book Club, con­tin­ued with Much Ado about Anne, and con­tin­ued through to the recent, sev­enth book, Moth­er-Daugh­ter Book Camp. We’ve grown to care about these five girls, Emma (the most ded­i­cat­ed read­er and writer), Jess (the farm girl and musi­cian), Bec­ca (first a bul­ly, then a friend, high­ly orga­nized, quil­ter), Megan (fash­ion­ista, blog­ger, whose moth­er is obsessed with green and healthy liv­ing), and Cas­sidy (sports, sports, and great love of fam­i­ly). Their moth­ers are famil­iar, too, because of Book Club meet­ings and trips they’ve tak­en. There are even grand­moth­ers with­in these sto­ries. I love it when all of the gen­er­a­tions are drawn into the sto­ry, don’t you? These are five girls who for the most part didn’t know each oth­er before the book club began — and now they’re for­ev­er friends.

In each part of the series, the book club dis­cuss­es a clas­sic book, from Lit­tle Women to Anne of Green Gables to the Bet­sy-Tacy books to the book fea­tured in Moth­er-Daugh­ter Book Camp, Under­stood Bet­sy by Dorothy Can­field Fish­er. The book club shares Fun Facts about the book and the author and so, of course, read­ers are drawn inevitably to read­ing the fea­tured book — how can curios­i­ty not engen­der this result? And the book club is woven skill­ful­ly into the larg­er sto­ry, which pro­vides plen­ty of laughs, a lot of gasps of sur­prise, and heart­warm­ing tears.

I’ve come to care about these girls, their fam­i­lies, their boyfriends. Each of them is head­ing off to a dif­fer­ent col­lege after being coun­selors at Camp Love­joy. The series is done with book sev­en but I know they’ll stay in touch. Their lives are inter­twined. I’m going to miss know­ing what hap­pens next.

Heather Vogel Fred­er­ick has writ­ten char­ac­ters so vivid that I expect them to walk through my front door, plop down on the couch, and tell me all about their lives. I wish they would.

These books are that good. I high­ly rec­om­mend them for fourth grade read­ers and old­er. The char­ac­ters are in sixth grade when their book club is formed. We watch them grow up, grad­u­ate from high school, and spend a spe­cial sum­mer togeth­er at camp before they head off to the rest of their lives.

I’m grate­ful that their sto­ries are a part of my life.

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Skinny Dip with Caroline Starr Rose

Which celebri­ty, liv­ing or not, do you wish would invite you to a cof­fee shop?

L.M. MontgomeryAuthor L.M. Mont­gomery, of Anne of Green Gables fame. I’ve read all of her books sev­er­al times over, includ­ing the jour­nals she kept from four­teen until the time of her death. In fact, I’ve com­mit­ted to revis­it­ing Maud’s jour­nals every ten years. So far, I’ve read all five vol­umes twice.

Though I have a feel­ing Maud wouldn’t approve of me (she was not fond of free verse), she has always felt like a kin­dred spir­it. Like me, she was a teacher, a Pres­by­ter­ian pastor’s wife, a moth­er to two boys, and an author. I’d like to think we’d have a lot to talk about!

Lat­er this year my best friend and I are head­ing to Maud’s home, Prince Edward Island — a trip six years in the mak­ing and dream come true.

Which book do you find your­self rec­om­mend­ing pas­sion­ate­ly?

The Phantom TollboothI adore Nor­ton Juster’s The Phan­tom Toll­booth. I’ve prob­a­bly read it thir­ty times, first as a stu­dent, then as a stu­dent teacher, then with my stu­dents, and final­ly with my own chil­dren. It’s wit­ty, it’s clever, it’s fun, and oh so quotable. It’s also great for teach­ing ele­ments of sto­ry. There’s a reluc­tant hero on a clas­sic quest, and even the cli­max takes place at the high­est phys­i­cal point in the sto­ry — the Cas­tle in the Air.

Most cher­ished child­hood mem­o­ry?

Ernest HemingwayI’m going to change this one slight­ly to my most star­ry-eyed lit­er­ary child­hood mem­o­ry. My fam­i­ly host­ed a Span­ish exchange stu­dent named Paula when I was in fourth grade. Since then, Paula’s fam­i­ly and my fam­i­ly have con­tin­ued to remain close. The Maci­ciors own a home that is hun­dreds of years old, a grand thir­ty-four room struc­ture in the Span­ish coun­try­side, near the city of Pam­plona. In the 1920s Ernest Hem­ing­way rent­ed a room there while work­ing on The Sun Also Ris­es.

I vis­it­ed this house as a pre-teen and a teen. Though I hadn’t yet read any­thing by Hem­ing­way, I knew his name and was thrilled to learn I’d get to stay in the room where a real-live author had tem­porar­i­ly lived. There are two beds in the room, and you bet­ter believe I slept in both, to cov­er my claim-to-fame bases.

Caroline Starr RoseBroth­er and sis­ters or an only child? How did that shape your life?

I have a half sis­ter and half broth­er who are ten and twelve years old­er than I am.  I often describe myself as a semi-only child, as much of my child­hood was spent as the only kid at home. This taught me to enter­tain myself, cer­tain­ly, and meant I had plen­ty of time for read­ing and imag­in­ing and just mak­ing do.

Best tip for liv­ing a con­tent­ed life?

This is one I’m still learn­ing (and prob­a­bly will be till I die). But so far I’ve learned con­tent­ment comes from grat­i­tude, from real­iz­ing how many sim­ple, won­der­ful, often-over­looked gifts we expe­ri­ence every­day. Like breath­ing. Have you ever con­sid­ered how amaz­ing it is that there’s air to fill your lungs every sin­gle moment? Con­tent­ment comes from lov­ing and being loved. And it comes from acknowl­edg­ing what you can con­trol and let­ting go of what you can’t. Eas­i­er said than done, I know.

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Candice Ransom: Being Ten

Ivy Honeysuckle coverEvery sum­mer I wish I was ten again, the per­fect age for the per­fect sea­son. At that age I was at the height of my child­hood pow­ers. And as a read­er, books couldn’t be thrust into my hands fast enough.

Every morn­ing I’d eat a bowl of Rice Krispies, with my book at the table (my moth­er wouldn’t let me do this at sup­per, though I often kept my library book open on the seat of the next chair). Then I’d go out to my tree house to watch birds and read the day into being. What­ev­er I was read­ing — fic­tion or non­fic­tion — shaped my dai­ly expe­ri­ences. I longed to live in books.

At ten, I had mas­tered writ­ing and draw­ing to the degree that I was com­fort­able mov­ing back and forth between words and images. With pen­cil, paper, and crayons, I could slip into the world beyond the print­ed page. I “con­tin­ued” the sto­ry in the book, or drew pic­tures, some­times copy­ing the illus­tra­tions. I loved the reck­less, sketchy lines of Beth and Joe Krush’s draw­ings in The Bor­row­ers. And I drew pre­cise, tiny black cats, like the ones Superstitious coverErik Bleg­vad often includ­ed in books he illus­trat­ed, like The Dia­mond in the Win­dow, and Super­sti­tious? Here’s Why?

Books led my ten-year-old self to places beyond my small Vir­ginia land­scape. In The Talk­ing Tree, a nov­el about Pacif­ic North­west Native Amer­i­cans, I was des­per­ate to make my own totem pole. I glued three emp­ty thread spools togeth­er and tried to etch a styl­ized raven, wolf, and beaver with the point­ed end of a nail file that kept skid­ding off the smooth wood­en sur­face.

My cousins got roped into act­ing out a Nan­cy Drew sto­ry. After read­ing The Mys­tery of the Lean­ing Chim­ney, I buried my mother’s Japan­ese sake cup, brought back by my uncle dur­ing WWII, in our back yard. When my cousins rolled up, I ran to meet their sta­tion wag­on.

Mama’s valu­able for­eign vase has been stolen!” I exclaimed, show­ing the boys the sin­is­ter-sound­ing note I’d writ­ten.

Aw, you wrote that,” Eugene said, rec­og­niz­ing my hand­writ­ing.

Pumpkin Day coverNo, real­ly, it’s from the vase steal­er!” I was shocked at his unwill­ing­ness to sus­pend dis­be­lief, but unde­terred. I dragged them all over the yard, dig­ging holes until I “stum­bled” on the buried cup.

What made that sum­mer spe­cial was the free­dom to read. I read dur­ing the school year, of course, and even in class when I was sup­posed to be work­ing on frac­tions, but plea­sure read­ing time was squished to week­end after­noons and bed­time. Sum­mer, how­ev­er, was one Great Big Read­ing Fest.

Best of all, I wasn’t hob­bled by a sum­mer read­ing list. I grew up in an era in which teach­ers turned kids loose in June, glad not to clap eyes on them again until after Labor Day. Now many ele­men­tary schools ask stu­dents to read to pre­vent “Sum­mer Slide.” The ran­dom lists I checked offer a wide vari­ety of books in a range of read­ing lev­els. But the read­ing list noose tight­ens in mid­dle and high schools. Stu­dents are often required to read from a more spe­cif­ic list and write a paper.

In her recent Wash­ing­ton Post piece, edu­ca­tor Michelle Rhee admits her own child­hood dis­like of sum­mer read­ing lists that includ­ed such titles as Anne of Green Gables and oth­er books she trudged through with lit­tle inter­est. As a teacher, and lat­er as chan­cel­lor of D.C. Pub­lic Schools, she rec­og­nized the val­ue of sum­mer read­ing pro­grams. But she also believes stu­dents should choose their own books.

A few weeks ago, I wan­dered the non­fic­tion children’s sec­tion in our pub­lic library. A boy around ten sat cross-legged on the floor, a book on heli­copters open in his lap. I guessed he had pulled the book from the shelf and plunked right down to read it.

Mom!” he said. “You have to see this! It’s the most amaz­ing thing in the world!”

Yes, I agreed silent­ly. It is the most amaz­ing thing in the world to watch a child just the right age fall into a book of his choice. I hoped he would keep that glo­ri­ous part of his self always. Let books con­tin­ue to guide him, pull him in, shape his day.

 

 

 

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Anne of Green Gables

by Melanie Heuis­er Hill

I received Anne of Green Gables for my tenth birth­day. I fell in love imme­di­ate­ly. Absolute­ly In Love — that’s the only way I can describe it.

bk_Anne120For the next sev­er­al years, I received the next book in the Anne series each birth­day and Christ­mas. I could spot the book in my pile of wrapped gifts — I have the Ban­tam Stare­fire Col­lec­tion, small mass mar­ket paper­backs not quite sev­en inch­es tall — the very size and shape of those books made my heart beat faster. The print is tiny, the mar­gins almost non-exis­tent, which wasn’t in any way a prob­lem when I received them. Now that I’ve added a few decades, I need my new bifo­cals to read them. My hus­band sug­gest­ed I get anoth­er set of the books — one with larg­er print. As if.

For years, through high school and col­lege and young-adult­hood, I re-read the books on the sly. Usu­al­ly in times of stress. I’d rip through the entire series — Anne age ten in #1 all the way through to her youngest daugh­ter, Ril­la, a teenag­er in #8. A cou­ple of years might go by between the read­ings — but not more than that. Some­times I just read Anne of Green Gables, which remains my absolute favorite, but usu­al­ly if I read it, I read them all.

A bosom friend – an inti­mate friend, you know – a real­ly kin­dred spir­it to whom I can con­fide my inmost soul.”(Anne Shirley, in Anne of Greene Gables)

Sev­er­al years ago now I met my bosom friend. I sat in the back of a small group as she and her hus­band talked about writ­ing and read­ing, fam­i­ly and life. I was so entranced I could not even take notes. I loved her at once, some­how. I sat lis­ten­ing to her and I thought: This woman is a kin­dred spir­it.

A heart­beat lat­er, as a part of a long list of excel­lent books worth re-read­ing, my kin­dred spir­it said “And Anne of Green Gables. I per­pet­u­al­ly read Anne of Green Gables, of course.” Her hus­band nod­ded.

A zing went through me head to toe — why had I nev­er thought to do that?! It was the word per­pet­u­al­ly that got me. And the non-cha­lant of course. I was a thou­sand miles from home, but if I’d had my trusty Ban­tam Starfire Col­lec­tion with me, I would’ve start­ed per­pet­u­al­ly read­ing the Anne books right then and there. As it was, I had to wait until I got home. But I’ve been per­pet­u­al­ly read­ing them — a chap­ter or two most nights before bed — ever since. (Imag­ine my hus­band nod­ding.)

My own daugh­ter is not as infat­u­at­ed with Anne. She’s a lit­tle over­whelmed with Anne’s bois­ter­ous spir­it, inces­sant chat­ter, over-active imag­i­na­tion, and gen­er­al endear­ing exu­ber­ance. (Which is fun­ny, because she’s real­ly quite like Anne Shirley.) She has a cou­ple of copies of Anne of Green Gables—hard­back col­lec­tor edi­tions she received as gifts. I gave her a box set of the whole series for her birth­day last year. (This is what has changed in a gen­er­a­tion — I received the books one at a time, but I gave her the entire series at once. But I digress.) They are sim­i­lar­ly sized to mine, and I thought maybe the size would some­how make the dif­fer­ence.

Alas no. They just aren’t real­ly her thing. I thought I might be crushed by her indif­fer­ence — I wor­ried about it for years. My bosom friend (whose daugh­ters are old­er than mine) warned me this could, in fact, hap­pen. But now that it has, it’s okay. Real­ly. My girl has read the hard­back a cou­ple of times, watched the excel­lent movies with me, and I’ve con­vinced her to read Anne of Avon­lea with me over vaca­tion this sum­mer. It’s all good.

My dear bosom friend died quite unex­pect­ed­ly and hor­ri­bly a year and a half ago. The hole left in my life remains large — we cor­re­spond­ed dai­ly and often ref­er­enced Anne Shirley and her adages and escapades along­side our own. Nei­ther of us fit the role of Anne Shirley or Diana Bar­ry, but our friend­ship was deep, even though it start­ed lat­er in life.

bk_AnneRainbow120My per­pet­u­al read­ing of the Anne series has been a gift dur­ing this time. I am so very grate­ful for my friend’s unas­sum­ing words: per­pet­u­al, of course. With­out the zing that went through me that evening, I might not have been bold enough to con­tact her, and our result­ing bosom friend­ship, so rich and so much a part of my life, might not have been.

So I think of her each night as I open what­ev­er book in the series I’m on (just start­ed #7, Rain­bow Val­ley). It’s bit­ter­sweet, to be sure, but it’s been help­ful some­how. My heart is grate­ful.

Also, I’m still hold­ing out hope my girl will become an Anne-girl this sum­mer. We’ll see.…

 

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Discussing the Books We’ve Loved: Déjà Vu

As I ready this arti­cle for pub­li­ca­tion, I am sit­ting in the cof­fee shop where I first met Heather Vogel Fred­er­ick, now a much-admired author of some of my favorite books. I still enjoy get­ting caught up in a series, accept­ing the like­able and not-so-like­able char­ac­ters as my new-found cir­cle of friends, antic­i­pat­ing the treat of stay­ing with the book as I open the pages of the sec­ond and third and fourth vol­umes in the series.… more
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Alongside the Books We’ve Loved: Venom and the River

This week, join me as we con­tin­ue to look at books that orbit the con­stel­la­tions of chil­dren’s series books much-loved by adults: Louisa May Alcott’s books, the Lit­tle House books, the Anne of Green Gables books, and Maud Hart Lovelace’s Bet­sy-Tacy books. A brand new nov­el, Ven­om on the Riv­er, is now avail­able from my favorite young adult mys­tery author, Mar­sha Qua­ley.… more
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