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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Tag Archives | Anne of Green Gables

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.


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.


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 cover“No, 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.





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….



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 […]


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 […]