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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: anne of green gables, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 29
1. Fusenews: Spring is here, spring is here / Life is skittles and life is beer

  • The weather!  She has warmed here in NYC!  The crocuses and daffodils and purple flowers that I can never identify are blooming in my front yard.  The birds are singing and there are buds on the trees.  Tis spring spring spring!  To celebrate, we begin today with a poetic celebration of baseball (a very spring thing) written by none other than my father.  You may have known that my mother was talented in this manner.  So too mon pere.  Enjoy!
  • News That Did Not Make a Sufficient Splash in America: How is it that we are not ALL aware that over in Bologna the small Brooklyn publisher Enchanted Lion Books won the prize for Best Children’s Publisher of the Year in the U.S. category?  I do not recall seeing this in my PW Children’s Bookshelf (though perhaps I missed it) nor on my tweets.  Come on, people!  Big time honor here and it couldn’t have gone to a nicer company.  Well done!
  • There are few things the British like more than rereleasing new Harry Potter covers.  They just revealed the new Jim Kay cover and while it does resemble some of the European covers I’ve seen, I think it is the very first time I’ve ever seen a hog associated in any way with Hogwarts.

Harry’s hair is actually messy!  And here is a nice interview with the artist in question.

  • I say this in all sincerity: The Bay Area Children’s Theatre may be the coolest theater of all time.  Yes, I love the New Victory Theatre in here NYC and my heart will always have a soft spot for Children’s Theatre Company of Minneapolis, but check out this upcoming season.  It was Rickshaw Girl that drilled it all home for me.  Rickshaw Girl!  That would work brilliantly on the stage.
  • This one’s interesting.  There’s an extension (I think they’re called extensions, though I’m a little hazy on that point) that once installed on your computer allows you to browse Amazon.com and see the availability of the items there in your local library.  The applications, should they get out, could be enormous.  Using an online retailer to search your local library (which could be useful if your library’s search engine is archaic).  Curious how people feel about this one.  It’s called Library Extension.
  • We’ve seen books written by children reach various levels of popularity over the years.  Swordbird, Eragon, She Was Nice to Mice, etc.  And we’ve seen celebrity children’s books flood our shelves whether we want them or not.  Now the two have come together with an upcoming release and it’s . . . um . . . well, it’s kind of the ULTIMATE celebrity child author of all time.  This I’ll pass on, though.
  • What kinds of children’s books would you like to see?  Where are your pet personal gaps?  Marc Aronson begins the conversation.
  • Daily Image:

I don’t usually show tweets that amuse me, but this one had me laughing aloud in public for days.


4 Comments on Fusenews: Spring is here, spring is here / Life is skittles and life is beer, last added: 4/15/2015
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2. It Was a Dark and Stormy Night ...

I recently finished reading the classic book "Wrinkle in Time" with my eight-year-old. It begins with the famous—and much maligned—line, "It was a dark and stormy night ..."

Writers look down on this opening phrase as being "obvious" and "too moody." It has been the butt of jokes from "Throw Momma from the Train" to Peanuts comics. But I'd like to write a brief defense of Madelaine L'Engle's linguistic choice as well as take a look at what makes descriptions work ... or not work.

L'Engle's phrase, at its most basic, does, indeed, set a tone for the book. And it describes the intensity that the character Meg feels. It also foreshadows the "dark"/sinister beings the characters will encounter, as well as the darkness through which the characters travel during their cross-planetary adventure. So I think that mentioning a "dark night" is thematic and relevant to L'Engle's whole book; she writes it as a fight between love and "the dark."

So what about the complaint that to describe night as dark is too obvious? I would argue that there are all kinds of nights. There are nights that seem like a faint orange hue hangs between the greenness of piled snow and heavy-set clouds. There are purple nights. There are also cold bright nights when the sky is clear and the moon shines like a shadeless pendant bulb.

And yes, there are stormy nights when the darkness seems to swallow up every detail out of reach, as though a cocoon of black velvet envelopes you: a dark and stormy night.

But these days, readers want more than that. We expect writers to paint with words in a more extraordinary way.

On the other hand, overly long or beatific descriptions are considered passé: Flip to almost any page in the classic "Anne of Green Gables" series and you'll find paragraphs of detail like: "a veritable apple-bearing tree, here in the very midst of pines and beeches ... all white with blossom. It's loaded [with apples]—tawny as russets but with a dusky red cheek. Most wild seedlings are green and uninviting."

While most of us still appreciate (and even love) L.M. Montgomery's lengthy stylistic descriptions for its time, these days such florid language is considered "purple prose."

Needless to say, descriptions can make or break even the best concepts and plots. Writers need not only to be gifted storytellers, but word makers and image creators of a new bent.

One author who excels in this is Mark Zusack. Consider some of these images from "The Book Thief":

  • a short grin was smiled in Papa's spoon
  • one [book] was delivered by a soft, yellow-dressed afternoon
  • empty hat-stand trees
  • the gun clipped a hole in the night
  • the summer of '39 was in a hurry
  • the smell of friendship
  • [the] crackling sound ... was kinetic humans, flowing, charging up
Zusak has an uncanny ability to describe. A grin is offered up as if it is a picture from a film director's storyboard. A sound is described using imagery. A feeling is described as a scent. Ideas are personified and people are chemicals.

So think well when you are describing. Go over your story and take the time to find new ways to bring imagery to your reader. And keep it somewhere between "purple" and "dark and stormy."

Do you have a favorite metaphor or simile? Share it below!

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3. The Lucy Maud Montgomery Journals Read Along: Volume I Discussion

An Overview:

This first volume of Maud’s journals covers her life from ages fourteen through thirty-five. She starts as a school girl (not above school yard spats and secret indulgences in novels during lesson time); studies at Prince of Wales College and Dalhousie University; teaches three years in different communities in Prince Edward Island, works one year as a copyeditor at a Nova Scotia newspaper; experiences six* proposals, two engagements, and one secret love affair; and spends more than a decade as her grandmother’s companion and caretaker, all the while reading, writing, and dreaming of the literary life.

There are countless directions I could take this post, but for the sake of true discussion, I wanted to comment on a few things that struck me and raise questions to those of you who have also read. You’ll see I’ve had so much to say I’ve decided to run a second discussion post on Wednesday and a more quotes I found interesting on Friday. I invite readers to take us anywhere you’d like in the comments below.
The Literary Life:
All my life is has been my aim to write a book -- a “real live” book... Well, I’ve written my book. The dream dreamed years ago in that old brown desk in school has come true at last after years of toil and struggle. And the realization is sweet -- almost as sweet as the dream!

Maud’s first novel, ANNE OF GREEN GABLES, sold to L.C. Page and Co., the fifth publishing house she submitted to. While on the surface, this looks like an easy thing, she had been tirelessly writing, submitting, and selling short stories and poems for over fifteen years. Writing had become a daily part of her life, as had a faithful study of the magazine market. 

Blessings be on the inventors of the alphabet, pen and printing press! Life would be -- to me in all events -- a terrible thing without books.

As well as writing, Maud read broadly and deeply. She often re-read childhood favorites, studying to see if they held up as the years passed but also refusing to let popular opinion sway her preferences. She compared author’s newer works to their older titles, pursued the bestsellers and the classics, and collected phrases that spoke to her (reminding me of my commonplace book).

After selling ANNE in 1907, she quickly went on to sell the sequel, ANNE OF AVONLEA,  KILMENY OF THE ORCHARD (a story re-worked story that had previously run as a magazine serial), and THE STORY GIRL (her personal favorite).

The road of literature is at first a very slow one...and I mean to work patiently on until I win -- as I believe I shall, sooner or later -- recognition and success.

Wednesday's discussion will focus on the two lives Maud often felt she lived and the process of recording a life through journaling. 

*Have I forgotten someone or accidentally added someone else in? Mr. Mustard, Lem, Lou, Edwin, Ewan, Oliver.

6 Comments on The Lucy Maud Montgomery Journals Read Along: Volume I Discussion, last added: 2/25/2013
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4. The Lucy Maud Montgomery Journals Read Along: Volume II Introduction

Miss the introductory or discussion posts for Volume I? Need the reading schedule for the entire read along? Click through!

Volume II cover years 1910-1921 and picks up with thirty-five year-old Maud still living in her childhood home caring for her grandmother, as she had for over a decade. Though she was a best selling author, life was very much the same (ANNE OF GREEN GABLES, published in 1908, had already gone into numerous print runs and brought her $7,000 in royalties early in 1910 -- "an enormous figure in a province where the average yearly income for a working woman was less than $300").

Major change was ahead: her grandmother's death (March 1911); marriage to Ewan MacDonald, who had been engaged to Maud since 1906 (July 1911); a European honeymoon; a move to Leaksdale, Ontario, where she set up her first home and stepped into the role of minister's wife; and the birth of her two boys (1912 and 1915 -- Maud lost another son to stillbirth in 1914).

The journal also covers Maud's agony over the first World War, a whirlwind trip to Boston to meet her crafty and not always above board editor with the L. C. Page Company, the discovery of her husband's mental illness, and the further facing of her own.

More and more, her journal became a place of escape, "a secret release for her thoughts," a rich resource for writing material, a source of companionship, "a rich record of motherhood," and an honest glimpse into "the life of a working writer."

I picked up Volume II a few weeks ago and am happily settled back in with Maud. For those of you reading, I look forward to hearing what you've taken from your readings when we meet for our discussion post on April 29. If you're finding yourself behind schedule, it's no big deal. Read in a way you can enjoy, and if you feel so inclined, come back at a later date to read posts you've missed.

For those of you not reading, it has been wonderful to hear your enthusiasm for and interest in these posts in person, via email, and in comments. I'm glad you're able to get a sense of Maud's life through what's being shared here.

Remember, throughout the month I post quotess on Twitter (#lmmjournals) and on my May B. Facebook page. Happy reading, and please spread the word!

The work for which we are fitted -- which we are sent into this world to do -- what a blessing it is and what fulness of joy it holds! 
-- Lucy Maud Montgomery, May 23, 1910

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5. Anne of Green Gables

After illustrating "Tartarin de Tarascon" for Eli Readers, this past November the publisher called me again. This time to work on "Anne of Green Gables." The cover was my favourite piece, but here is also a small selection of the interior pages.
I worked on the illustrations in a slightly different way. The lines you see on the characters are the actual pencil lines of my roughs. I wanted to use a stronger graphite rendering, but time was against me. Hopefully on the next book!

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6. Fusenews: Blink and you’ll miss it

Hey all!  Before I dive into the oddities of the world in which we live, I just wanted to give a bit of a shout out to two distinct groups that allowed me to sprawl my librarian self all over their respective gatherings.  First up, credit and love to Nancy Castaldo and all the folks who made this weekend’s Eastern NY SCBWI Regional Conference the success that it was.  I’m mighty appreciative that I was able to offer the dessert keynote on Saturday.  Moreover, thanks to everyone who came out to see my censorship panel on Saturday at the Brooklyn Book Festival with David Levithan, Francesca Lia Block, and Lauren Myracle.  It’s always nice to moderate something that hardly needs any moderation at all.  Extra thanks to anyone who stayed around for my picture book reading later.  David Maybury I be looking at you.

And now, because the weekend was so darned exciting, I’m going to do some super quickie round-ups of the recent news.

WitchesPoster 500x319 Fusenews: Blink and youll miss it

Don’t mind if I do!

  • I have dealt with difficult reference desk requests in the past, but Benji’s story on dealing with a student looking for Effie?  That takes the cake.  Thanks to 100 Scope Notes for the link.
  • Though it falls squarely into the Couldn’t Be Published in America category of European picture books, Sergio Ruzzier’s remarkable The Birds is WELL worth reading through today.  And not just because I like the name.
  • Ever been curious about the history of children’s theater in New York City?  Well, you lucky ducks, I just found a post that’s gonna make your day.
  • Confused as to where exactly I work and what exactly I work for?  My job has gotten a bit more complicated since I became part of BookOps.  This interview with my colleagues by Booklist should clear up any and all confusion, though.  At least I hope it does.
  • Take one look at this image and tell me what you think it is:

AnneGablesWedding 500x333 Fusenews: Blink and youll miss it

If you said it was an Anne-of-Green-Gables-inspired-wedding-shoot you would be correct.  Sadly it wasn’t a real wedding, but you can tell it’ll serve as inspiration to a lot of folks.

  • Hooray!  The good Elizabeth Bluemle has collected The Stars Thus Far for 2013 and they’re a doozy.  A bunch of five stars are up, but not a single six star book has appeared so far this year.  Whodathunkit?
  • Looks like we have a bookless library on our hands.  Now the only question is whether or not we’ll be seeing the community clamoring for print or not.  Not so sure I agree with the statement that “it will take more than 100 years before all libraries are paperless” (so that’s inevitable, eh whot?) but we can all watch this site with some interest.
  • Daily Image:

Yup.  That’s gonna be the walls of my house someday.  Though the books will undoubtedly be thinner.

BookWall Fusenews: Blink and youll miss it

Thanks to Aunt Judy for the link!

printfriendly Fusenews: Blink and youll miss itemail Fusenews: Blink and youll miss ittwitter Fusenews: Blink and youll miss itfacebook Fusenews: Blink and youll miss itgoogle plus Fusenews: Blink and youll miss ittumblr Fusenews: Blink and youll miss itshare save 171 16 Fusenews: Blink and youll miss it

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7. Fusenews: Of gigs and dreck

It's the bellbottoms on the hippy dippy minstrel that I love.

  • Comic book bloggers and children’s literature bloggers are two sides of the same coin.  Our interests often run parallel.  The degree to which the academic world regards us is fairly similar (though admittedly we get to have Norton Anthologies while they are sorely lacking any such distinction).  I don’t read my comic book blogs as frequently as I might, but once in a while the resident husband will draw my attention to something particularly toothsome.  Such a case was this series on Comic Book Resources.  A fellow by the name of Greg Hatcher makes a tour of the countryside each year, finding small towns with even smaller bookshops and thrift shops.  This year his has posted his finds and the children’s literature goodies are frequent.  In part one he pays homage to a surprise discovery of Kieran Scott’s Geek Magnet and shows the sad state of Sacagawea-related children’s literature in gift shops today (though I sure hope the Lewis & Clark gift shop also has the wherewithal to carry Joseph Bruchac’s Sacajawea: The Story of Bird Woman and the Lewis and Clark).  In part two Greg discovers the oddly comic-less Janet Townsend novel The Comic Book Mystery, finds the name Franklin Dixon on a book that ISN’T a Hardy Boys novel, and waxes eloquent on the career of illustrator Kurt Wiese. In part three he locates some very rare and pristine Trixie Belden novels (which I adored as a kid).  And finally, in part four he introduces us to the Danny Dunn series, shows us a hitherto unknown Three Investigators cover, and discusses Henry Reed (with illustrations by Robert McCloskey, of course).  If you enjoy bookscouting in any way, these posts are a joy.  Take a half an hour out of your day to go through them.  Greg writes with an easy care that I envy and hope to emulate.  Plus I loved the idea of giving photographs inserted into posts colored notations the way he does.  I’ve already started to try it myself.  Thanks to Matt (who, I see, recently credited Better Off Ted, for which I am grateful) for the links.
  • I sort of view agent Nathan Bransford with the same wary respect I once bestowed upon a toucan I found in the London department store Harrods.  I’m grateful that he’s there and I can’t look away, but there’s something unnerving about running across him.  And now he appears to have a book coming out with Dial in 2011, which is nice except that I keep misreading the title as Jacob Wonderbra and the Cosmic Space Kapow.  For the record, I would give a whole lot of money to any author willing to name their titular character (childish giggle) after a bra, a girdle, or even a good old-fashioned garter.  Okay . . . why am I talking about Nathan Bransford again?  Oh righ

    3 Comments on Fusenews: Of gigs and dreck, last added: 8/26/2010
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8. 9th Anne of Green Gables series book available!

Did you know that there is a 9th book in LM Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series??? (I LOVE that series.) Well, there is! She delivered it to her publisher the day she died. The Blythes Are Quoted. The paperback version is available today in Canada

For those of you in the US, the hardcover version and the Kindle version are available.

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9. serial novels

The NY Times (11/21/2011) reports that the writer, Mark Z. Danielewski ("House of Leaves," "Only Revolutions") is planning a 27 volume novel, titled "The Familiar." The novel is planned to be released with one new volume every three months, beginning in 2014. Knopf Doubleday is reported to have paid one million dollars for the first ten books.

Danielewski has an optimistic view that a huge, long-running, serial release like his will generate perhaps daily, or at least ongoing, buzz about the characters and story-line. He hopes for something similar to what unfolds in newspaper columns, radio talk shows, and public conversations during a season of popular TV episodes, like the recent "Sopranos," or the current "Mad Men."

"Literature is capable of being a subject that people want to catch up on or discuss, whether at a coffee shop or a watercooler," Mr. Danielewski said. "It can become an intrinsic part of their dialogue." His editor says the books will be an attempt to create a "serial relationship" with the readers.

Well, certainly J. K. Rowling had epic success with serial releases (7) of her Harry Potter fantasy novels over about 10 years. According to Wikipedia, her book series has sold about 450 million copies.

Another greatly successful novel series was the eight books, beginning with "Anne of Green Gables," written by Canadian author Lucy Maude Montgomery, and published between 1908 and 1921. The books track the life of Anne, beginning when she arrives as a precocious 11-year old orphan at a farm on Prince Edward Island in Canada, up until she is a teacher there in her early fifties. The books have sold about 50 million copies, according to Wikipedia, and are included in school curriculums all over the world.

An example of success in serial novel publication in a different genre is Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin seafaring adventures, which included 20 novels published between 1969 and 1999. Jack Aubrey is a British Royal Navy officer, and Stephen Maturin is ship's surgeon, who serve together at sea during the French Revolutionary

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10. Top 100 Children’s Novels #8: Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

#8 Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (1908)
182 points

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 the

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11. The Selected Journals of LM Montgomery Read Along

Lucy Maud Montgomery, author of the Anne of Green Gables series and two dozen more books, kept a journal from the time she was fourteen until she died in her sixties.

I first discovered her journals (available in five volumes) with my dear friend, Jamie C. Martin, back when I was teaching, was a soon-to-be mama, and was pursuing the writing life with as much vigor and passion as I was able to muster while figuring it all out alone.

If you've read any of Maud's books, the journals might come as a surprise. Much of the sweetness you'd expect from the author of Anne, Emily, Pat, and the Story Girl isn't present. Her life was a challenge in many ways. But for me, seeing Maud's daily struggles made her somehow more real and made her hopeful books that much richer. 

I have always felt an affinity for this woman. We share a lot in common as teachers, mothers to two boys, pastor's wives, authors, women who have lived with depression. These journals are insightful, funny, painful, full of longing, and brimming with the anecdotal stories you'd expect from an author of over 500 short stories. Through these books I've learned about women's schooling in the late 1800's, a bit of Canadian history and geography, societal norms, women's fashion, beginning and sustaining a writing career (in the midst of babies and a male-dominated publishing world), advancements in technology, the impact on the individual of the first and second World Wars. I can go on and on.

It has been some time since I've read these journals, and I've found myself longing to re-read the books that so deeply spoke to me over a decade ago. I'm inviting anyone who's interested to read along. This is the only reading goal I'm setting for myself in 2013.

Expect to see a lot on LM on the blog next year.

Jamie? Marissa? Serenity? Want to join me?* Anyone else?

* Unfortunately, the journals are not easy to find. Try Amazon or your local library.

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12. LMM Journals Read Along: Volume I

Want to know more about the Read Along? Click through for the introductory post and reading schedule.


It is will great excitement I welcome you to the LMM Journals Read Along! Picking up this first book has, in many ways, felt like coming home. If you are an Anne fan, you will be delighted to see phrases and circumstances that feel very Anne-ish. If you're an Emily fan, you'll see parallels between Maud's upbringing and Emily's.

Here you'll find school girl spats, small-town social events, a year with her beloved father (and ill-humored stepmother), a proposal from her former teacher (!), many, many heart-broken suitors, teaching, writing, an engagement, loneliness, the sale of ANNE.

Lucy Maud Montgomery was born November 30, 1874 in Clifton (now New London), Prince Edward Island, Canada. "Thirty-four years later, in 1908, her first novel, ANNE OF GREEN GABLES, put Prince Edward Island on the literary map of the world. When she died in 1942 Montgomery had published over twenty books, hundreds of short stories and poems, and her name was known far beyond the English-speaking world."

Before her second birthday, Maud, as she liked to be called, lost her mother. Her father quickly left for the mainland, remarrying and leaving Maud to be raised by her mother's parents. She began journaling as "a tot of nine" but destroyed those early copies. "Surviving are ten handwritten volumes that were begun when she was fourteen and date from 1889 to 1942." This first volume includes the first two of those ten journals, covering her PEI years "from ages 14 to 36" (including a year with her father in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan).

Without siblings, raised by older relatives, and intellectually ahead of her class, Maud often felt isolated and different from those around her. She "viewed her journals as a 'personal confidant in whom I can repose absolute trust'."

"Because the journals are so full and frank and cover such a long period, and because they are the work of a successful professional writer, they provide a degree of information, anecdote, and personal history that makes them unique in Canadian letters. The interest attached to the autobiographical content is obvious. What may not appear so obvious in this first volume is that the complete journals of L. M. Montgomery provide a fund of engrossing social history covering more than half a century and draw the reader surprisingly far into the depths of one woman's life."*

As I read, I'll share favorite quotes on Twitter, using the hashtag #lmmjournals. Make notes as you read or just enjoy. And please consider returning Monday, 25 February to join the discussion of Volume I.

Be sure to keep a second bookmark at the notes section at the back of the book. Extra details are given here.

Happy reading!

*All quotes taken from the introduction of the first volume

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13. Fusenews: Though wouldn’t you rather read “Bertie & Psmith”?

NewRamona 200x300 Fusenews: Though wouldnt you rather read Bertie & Psmith?Before we begin I would like to have a few words with the publishers on behalf of catalogers nationwide.


Hi, guys.  How’s it going?  Heckuva weird weather we’ve had lately, right?  Yeah . . . so . . . here’s the thing.  You know how you’ve been rereleasing a couple classic children’s books recently like Slake’s Limbo and all the Ramona Quimby books?  That is just awesome of you.  Seriously, new covers were desperately needed.  But, you’re kind of doing this weird thing that’s messing everything up.  See, for some reason you’re changing the covers but you’re keeping the old ISBNs.  And we wouldn’t really mind if it was just the jackets you were changing, but in the case of the Ramona books you have new interior illustrations.  This is a HUGE disservice, not only to libraries, but to your new illustrator, Ms. Jacqueline Rogers.  If you keep the same ISBN then in records across the country previous illustrators will be listed in the system.  Not Ms. Rogers.  So, I know we’re supposedly going to go through some crazy crisis where we run out of all the ISBNs, but do a gal a favor and change the ISBNs on rereleases if you have new interior art (or, also in the case of Ramona, new pagination).  It just makes good clean sense.

Okay!  Moving on.

  • If I say that Travis Jonker fellow at 100 Scope Notes is a nice guy I’m not exactly telling you anything you don’t already know.  But how nice is he?  Well, in his awesome 10 to Note: Spring Preview 2013 do you know what book he led with?  MINE!! I’m thrilled and flabbergasted all at once.  Ye gods!  I hit the big time, folks!  Now I just need to get my hands on that cool looking Lauren Myracle early chapter book and that new Charise Mericle Harper graphic novel.  Woot!
  • You know you’re cool when the National Coalition Against Censorship collects cool birthday wishes for you.  You’re even cooler if those birthday wishes come from folks like Jon Scieszka, Lois Lowry, and the aforementioned Lauren Myracle.  And if you happen to be Judy Blume?  Icing on the cake, baby.
  • On the one hand, it’s awfully interesting to hear folks speculating on what really made Mary Ingalls blind.  On the other hand  . . . . NBC News linked to me, linked to me, linked to me me me!
  • In case you happened to missed it, I hosted a helluva Literary Salon the other day.  Yup.  Jeanne Birdsall, Adam Gidwitz, N.D. Wilson, and Rebecca Stead all gave up their precious time to stop by old NYPL for a Children’s Literary Salon where they debated why pop culture at large tries to label middle grade fiction as YA.  The whole conversation was, for the very first time, recorded for posterity.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is that the audio feed is lousy.  Not sure what I did but it’s a bit mucked up.  Clear enough that you could make a transcript from it (casts meaningful looks into the nethersphere) but not so clear that you could actually enjoy listening to it.  A little later in the podcast some folks stop speaking into mics.  That actually helps.  Rear in Gear reports on how it went from  the frontlines.  By the way, the title “Why YA” is a good one.  I might shorten it to Y.YA, then proclaim that to be the newest bestest trend without explanation.  Cause that’s how I roll.
  • Speaking of my Children’s Literary Salons, I’ve one in early March on the topic of Diversity and the State of the Children’s Book that will prove to be most fascinating (and better recorded, I hope).  Much along the same lines is a truly fascinating post over at Ms. Yingling Reads.  The post concerns those book jackets that do not reflect the ethnicity of the characters within, but brings up a very interesting p.o.v. from that of the smaller publisher reliant on stock images.  This post is your required reading of the day.  Many many thanks to Carl in Charlotte for the heads up.
  • The post on 10 Fictional Libraries I’d Love to Visit is a lot of fun, but I would add the library featured in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman books most certainly.  That would be the library that contains every book conceived of but never published by the world’s greatest writers.  The in-jokes alone are worth it.  Who doesn’t love Psmith and Jeeves?

SandmanLibrary Fusenews: Though wouldnt you rather read Bertie & Psmith?

Thanks to AL Direct for the link.

  • Nerd that I am, I cannot help but be thrilled that the Bologna Book Fair has just established a new prize for the Best Children’s Publisher of the Year.  What a fantastic idea, and why has no one else come up with it before?  Now THAT is something I can get behind.  Boy, yeah.
  • Flavorwire’s Conspiracy Theories About Classic Literary Characters doesn’t tell you a lot you haven’t already heard about your classic books (Nick Carraway = gay, Holden Caulfield = gay, yadda yadda yadda) but there are some fun exceptions on the children’s literature side.  I think I’ve heard the Winnie-the-Pooh theory before, and I certainly heard the Harry Potter one (Rowling herself even addressed it) but the Wizard of Oz one is actually entirely a new one on me.  Huh! Thanks to Annie Cardi for the link.
  • I like it when authors reveal the covers of their upcoming books.  I especially like it when those authors are folks I’ve heard of before and have enjoyed thoroughly.  I met Matthew Kirby (The Clockwork Three, Icefall) at a SCBWI event recently and now I find out that he has revealed his latest title The Lost Kingdom.  Yep.  I’ll be reading that one.
  • The other day I spoke on a panel for some young publishers about the library’s role in the pursuit of Common Core.  I was on that panel with Scottie Bowditch of Penguin and John Mason of Scholastic.  After the fact I learned that Scholastic has been working to get their hands on all this Common Core schtuf by creating the site Common Sense for the Common Core.  It was created to help parents through this tricky time, but no doubt we librarians would benefit a tad as well.  FYI!
  • You may have heard that tornadoes recently ripped through Mississippi on Sunday causing untold devastation in their wake.  They hit in a number of places, including Hattiesburg, Mississippi.  Why do I mention this?  Well, are you aware what resides in Hattiesburg?  That would be the University of Southern Mississippi.  And what is the University of Southern Mississippi home to?  If you answered that it was the de Grummond Collection “one of North America’s leading research centers in the field of children’s literature” you would also be correct.  So did the collection survive the storms?  We are happy to report that they did.  And on the de Grummond’s Twitter feed they assured everyone that they were safe and sound.  Whew!
  • Look me in the eye.  Right here!  Right in my beady little eye and tell me that this is not the smartest use of The Pigeon you’ve seen in a long long time.  The crazy thing?  I thought they melded together a bunch of different Pigeon books.  Not true!  Instead, all these panels come from The Pigeon Wants a Puppy.

PigeonHamlet Fusenews: Though wouldnt you rather read Bertie & Psmith?

  • Remember when NPR started that program they called NPR’s Backseat Book Club?  They said they would pick a new book for kids every month and discuss them.  Well, the whole “every month” part of that plan has been spotty and the selections have been even spottier.  Seems to me NPR isn’t taking full advantage of the field.  I mean, Black Beauty and Wimpy Kid?  Is that the best you can do?  Fortunately it looks like they’ll crank things up a notch when they discuss Gary Schmidt’s Okay for Now.  In fact, kids are encouraged to submit some questions to the author ahead of time.  Got yourself some kids?  Then go to it!
  • Speaking of kids submitting stuff, you may have heard that YA author Ned Vizzini is getting into the middle grade fiction arena.  He isn’t doing it alone, though.  Director Chris Columbus is penning House of Secrets with him.  Aside from the fact that the book has an honest-to-god blurb from J.K. Rowling on it (no blurb whore she) kids can get a copy by tweeting Ned their “secrets”.  You can see some examples here.  Love the kid who used to eat chocolate dog biscuits. That one I believe.
  • Would you like $1000?  Sure.  We all would.  But to be a bit more specific, would you like $1000 for your program that uses, “children’s literature as a way to promote international understanding”?  Well then are you in luck!  USBBY would sure like to give you some cash.  Say they, “Schools, libraries, scout troops, clubs and bookstores are all eligible for this award. Does your school or library program or do you know of another organization that “promotes reading as a way to expand a child’s world”? To learn more about the award, view information about past winners and award criteria and access the downloadable application form, please link to: http://www.usbby.org/list_b2u.html
  • Done and done.I wasn’t particularly aggrieved by the Anne of Green Gables brou-de-haha going on about that random cover someone created.  In fact, a commenter at ShelfTalker with my name (not me, alas) basically summarized my thoughts on the matter brilliantly when she said, “Folks, you are getting all upset because you MISUNDERSTAND the situation. This is NOT a ‘PUBLISHER’ with a marketing dept. This is a public domain book that some RANDOM PERSON is selling. You could do the same thing. PUBLIC DOMAIN – it means anyone can do anything with it. Here is a list of public domain books: http://www.feedbooks.com/publicdomain. If you want, you yourself could publish, say, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo with a photo on the cover of Governor Chris Christie eating a donut. (If you had the rights to the donut picture of course.)”  Which was all well and good . . . but I truly have to tip my hat to Donytop5 who simply replied, “Here Betsy, I found it! http://wolverinesss.tumblr.com/image/42556986881“  That made my day, right there.
  • Apparently there’s a competitor to Goodreads out there and it’s calling itself Bookish.  It’s not really the same thing as Goodreads, mind you, since it’s publisher driven through and through.  Says Media Decoder, “Instead of relying essentially on the taste of other customers with similar preferences, as most recommendation engines do, Bookish’s tool takes into account critical reviews and awards.”  Curious, I decided to see what they had in the realm of children’s literature.  It’s interesting.  Not a ton of content yet, but their recommendations aren’t shabby.  Worth eyeing warily for a while.
  • Daily Image:

Someday I will be very rich and I will create a children’s library of my very own.  When I do, I will allow one or two walls to be like this:

WallArt1 Fusenews: Though wouldnt you rather read Bertie & Psmith?

Fortunately if that looks cool to you, you don’t have to wait.  Just head on over to the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art and have your fun.  Thanks to Swiss Miss for the link!

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14. Nim Stories in the Next Big Thing blog tag

My lovely friend, and brilliant artist and author Lauren Stringer tagged me for “The Next Big Thing,” and so after a bit of confusion, I’m doing it again with a different book. Lauren wrote about her When Stravinsky met Nijinsky  - now isn’t that a title you just have to pick up!   

So here is my ‘next big thing’: The Nim Stories.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Nim’s Island was inspired by a story I wrote when I was nine. We were on the ferry to Vancouver Island, to visit my grandparents, and passed a tiny little island. As soon as I saw it I thought, “I wish I lived there!” When we got home I started writing “Spring Island,” about a girl who runs away from an orphanage to live on an island. I think the orphan inspiration came from Anne of Green Gables, which I’d just read.

One week many years later, I received two letters from girls asking me to write a book about them. I said that I couldn’t do that, but I started playing the writer’s game of “What if?”  “What if a girl wrote to an author and said “Could you please write a book about me?” and the author said, “No, because I’m a very famous writer who writes very exciting books, and since you’re just a little girl your life would be much too boring.” 
But what if the girl’s life was more exciting than the author’s?  And why was it more exciting?
The answer was, “Because she lived on an island.”

After many false starts  I remembered the story I’d written when I was nine, and Nim’s Island came to life. (Yes, my mother still has the original. I scanned the cover when I visited my parents after the Nim's Island Hollywood premiere - it was quite a strange feeling finding it!).

I’d always wanted to write Nim at Sea to find out after the end of the story, but one of the inspirations was a letter from a girl named Erin, who said that she wished she could be Nim’s friend. I thought, “Yes, Nim needs a human friend her own age!” That’s why I named her Erin.

Then my publisher was inspired to put the two books together to celebrate the movie Return to Nim’s Island, which is loosely based on Nim at Sea.

What genre does your book fall under?

Children’s fiction – fantasy adventure.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Interestingly, since I’ve been truly thrilled with the different actors who’ve played the characters in the two movies, it brings me back to my truth that everyone who reads a book owns it by interpreting it in their own way. Abigail Breslin and Bindi Irwin are very different actors, but they have both been perfect as Nim. Both Gerard Butler and Matthew Lillard were wonderful as her dad Jack. And of course the inimitable Jodie Foster, who even looked like the Alex Rover in my head…

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Two books in one: Nim's Island and Nim at Sea, the stories of a girl who lives on an island in the middle of the wide blue sea, with her father, Jack, a marine iguana called Fred, a sea lion called Selkie, a turtle called Chica and a satellite dish for her email.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

I think the first draft of Nim’s Island took about nine months, (or 34 years, depending on which way you look at it.) The first draft of Nim at Sea probably took six months, but I think went to even more drafts over the following year.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Anne of Green Gables!

What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?
from Nim at Sea; illustration by Kerry Millard
I didn’t think about them being ‘girl power’ books, but they’re often seen that way because Nim is strong, independent and resourceful. On the other hand, adventures with a sea lion and a marine iguana would certainly pique my interest, so I hope they would other readers as well.
I’ve now tagged:

They'll be posting in a week's time - it’ll be great to see what their Next Big Things are! But you can have a look at their blogs now anyway: lots of interesting stuff there. 

1 Comments on Nim Stories in the Next Big Thing blog tag, last added: 2/15/2013
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15. Happy 100th Birthday

ANNE OF GREEN GABLES celebrates its 100th birthday this month. It was originally published in June of 1908 by Canadian author, Lucy Maud Montgomery. Her stories of orphaned Anne Shirley became a girls' favorite spanning a century. Chicago Tribune cultural critic, Julia Keller, highlights Anne's importance in children's literature. Click on the title of the Ms. Montgomery's book above and you'll be taken to the Online Literature Library site where 5 of the books are now available free online. Or if you'd like a copy of the 100th anniversary edition, try Amazon or your favorite bookstore or library.

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16. Today's Ypulse Books: Ally Carter's Rant, LM Montgomery's Suicide & More

Today in Ypulse Books, our Alli posts about YA author Ally Carter's response to the question, "How much should I 'lower' my writing when writing for teens?" and adds her own thoughts on the topic. And in Ypulse Book... Read the rest of this post

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17. Heart Rendering

University of Guelph has just created an online archive of their Lucy Maud Montgomery collection. I love this picture of her childhood bedroom.

(Lucy Maud Montgomery's old room in grandparents MacNeill's home, ca.1880's. Cavendish, P.E.I.)

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18. Much Ado About Anne

The girls are back! School is about to start and Jess, Emma, Cassidy and Megan are all heading into the seventh grade. Life has been swimming along for the girls, but there have been a few changes along the way. Cassidy's mom is still taping her show "Cooking with Clementine" and on top of this she has a new boyfriend - Stanley Kincaid. Cassidy is not thrilled about this. "Stan the man" is short and bald and an accountant of all things! Not at all like her dad, who Cassidy still misses like crazy. Emma is trying to let go of her crush on Zach. Megan is still finding it difficult to be in the middle of friendships with the book club girls and with the Fab 3. And lastly, Jess is feeling the stress at home. Her mom is back home at Half Moon Farm, but Jess knows there is something going on. She is hoping her mom isn't thinking of going back to the soap opera again.

It is time for the first book club meeting of the year and the girls are in for a surprise. The mothers went and invited Becca Chadwick and her mom to join. They figured the invitation would help "build bridges" between the girls and Becca. Emma especially, isn't pleased with this addition, because Becca does fling an inordinate amount of torture her way.

Once the first meeting is in full swing, they moms and daughters set about the big task of choosing the next bookclub read. Little Women won't be easy to top. Many titles are tossed about, but either Emma has read them already or they don't meet Mrs. Chadwick's criteria for appropriate themes. Finally they settle on Anne of Green Gables.

What will happen to the dynamics of the book club once Becca has access to what really goes on? Will the girls be able to be themselves with Becca around? Can the mothers survive having Mrs. Chadwick in the book club as well?

Along the way Jess discovers why her parents are stressed. Her mom isn't leaving, but Half Moon Farm is in trouble. If they don't raise the money to pay their taxes in time, Jess may be on her way to NYC to live! The girls must band together to try to help out, and they must use their talents along the way to ensure success.

Heather Vogel Frederick has written a delightful sequel to The Mother-Daughter Book Club. Each character grows within the story, and the girls are growing up in a realistic fashion as well. In these crazy times where so many lives are filled with stress, it is refreshing to sit down and read a book that highlights family and simple pleasures like ice-skating, book clubs, and camping trips (ill-fated though they may be!) Heather Vogel Frederick manages to pull this off without seeming too good to be true or treacle in the least. Fans of the first book, as well as those who enjoy Birdsall, and Lucy Maud Montgomery will eat this up.

1 Comments on Much Ado About Anne, last added: 11/21/2008
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19. Books I felt I ought to have liked, but really didn’t: Anne of Green Gables

This is the first installment of a new series/experiment. There are plenty of books I never liked, and that’s fine, but there are a few that I felt a kind of compunction to like, and was always kind of regretful that I didn’t So, (here’s the experiment part) I’m going to read them again, and see what I think now. The thing is, once I didn’t like these books the one time I read them as a child, of course I didn’t read them again, so I have limited, vague memories of why I didn’t like them, which makes it hard to hold up my side in discussion with everyone who love love loves them.

485605_com_anneshirley2Anyway, first up is ANNE OF GREEN GABLES by L.M. Montgomery. This one is actually a slight exception to the group, because I never felt as much of a strong sense that I ought to like this book as a kid. But what’s puzzling is I loved Montgomery’s EMILY OF NEW MOON and its sequels, read them over and over again. Granted, they had the special appeal of a main character with my name, which I’m sure is what made me spot them and pull them off the shelf in the first place. Because I loved the EMILY series so much, I tried ANNE a few times over the years…and never got past the first couple of chapters, it was just too boring. So then I stopped trying it, until, as an adult, I discovered the deep love many of my friends have for the ANNE books (and movie, which I have not seen). So I gave it a shot last week, and definitely would have put it down again after a couple chapters if it hadn’t been for my determination to do this post. I will say, about half way through it got a lot more engaging, and while I don’t think I’d read it again I’m glad I got through it the once.

images-1I think the issue is that it has a lot of what I don’t like so much in the EMILY books, but amplified, and without much of what I do like. In both, I lose patience with the endless descriptions and have to skim - I started enjoying ANNE a lot more once I started skimming. But I find the devices used in the EMILY books to express that side of the character more believable, and less inclined to take over the whole character. Anne’s defining characteristic is her imagination - she gets lost in imaginings and forgets what’s going on around her, and talks endlessly about her imaginings and observations and how beautiful various trees are. Whereas Emily gets similarly lost in her writing, which for me is more believable than a 12 year old spending hours and hours just sitting and imagining; and Emily’s endless descriptions of how beautiful something is, etc come out primarily in her writing, so they don’t dominate her interactions with people and her whole character as much.

Another key difference for me is that the other characters in the EMILY books are both more interesting and better developed than the supporting characters in ANNE OF GREEN GABLES. Emily’s friends are fully developed and have interesting and distinct personalities, whereas Anne’s friends are kind of flat and boring. And Emily’s adversaries are much more genuinely adversarial than Anne’s - there’s a clear parallel between Marilla in ANNE and Aunt Elizabeth in EMILY, but Marilla gives really only token opposition, whereas Aunt Elizabeth and Emily genuinely clash throughout much of the first book. Plus Emily has Aunt Ruth and her teacher to detest, whereas Anne has no parallel foes.

The reason I’m writing so much about the EMILY books in this post about ANNE OF GREEN GABLES is that most of my sense of ought-to-like-it for ANNE came from the fact that I loved the EMILY books. But I’ve now concluded that the EMILY books are really quite excellent, whereas ANNE is mediocre and kind of boring, so I am now content with my lack of ANNE love.

Next up in this series: Louise Fitzhugh’s HARRIET THE SPY. But maybe not for a little while, because its not the easiest thing to get yourself to sit down and read a book you think you’re not going to like, and two in a row is just too much. Besides, I have to go re-read the EMILY books now that I’ve thought so much about them.

Posted in Anne of Green Gables, Childhood Reading, Emily of New Moon, Flawed, however, can indeed coincide with uninteresting, Montgomery, L.M.

8 Comments on Books I felt I ought to have liked, but really didn’t: Anne of Green Gables, last added: 5/11/2009
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Lucy Maud Montgomery is most well-known for her Anne of Green Gables series, but one of my new favorites is Emily of New Moon.

Emily Starr is a whimsical and creative girl who finds herself thrust into the care of two aunts when her father dies suddenly.

I first became familiar with this character when our local library got the series in on DVD. The glorious Prince Edward Isles is the perfect setting for the rambunctious escapades of Emily.

Determined to be a writer, Emily fights against the constraints of a restrictive society and the constant ridicule of those who don't understand her. But with a small group of unlikely friends, Emily finds a life

The acting in the series presented by Salter Street Films and CBS Television includes a stellar performance by Susan Clark, a variety of children from the island, and a host of exceptional guests, including Michael Moriarty and Maury Chaykin.

Fans of Lucy Maud Montgomery's Emily of New Moon television series can find more information at the IMDB web site.

I loved Anne of Green Gables, but Emily is a character much dearer to my heart as she is free-spirited, strong-willed, and committed to exploring her inner desires. The vastness of her imagination is matched only by that of the tremendously talented L.M. Montgomery.

These stories are captivating for readers and viewers of all ages. Montgomery's stories make for great family entertainment. You should give them a try!

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Lucy Maud Montgomery is most well-known for her Anne of Green Gables series, but one of my new favorites is Emily of New Moon.

Emily Starr is a whimsical and creative girl who finds herself thrust into the care of two aunts when her father dies suddenly.

I first became familiar with this character when our local library got the series in on DVD. The glorious Prince Edward Isles is the perfect setting for the rambunctious escapades of Emily.

Determined to be a writer, Emily fights against the constraints of a restrictive society and the constant ridicule of those who don't understand her. But with a small group of unlikely friends, Emily finds a life

The acting in the series presented by Salter Street Films and CBS Television includes a stellar performance by Susan Clark, a variety of children from the island, and a host of exceptional guests, including Michael Moriarty and Maury Chaykin.

Fans of Lucy Maud Montgomery's Emily of New Moon television series can find more information at the IMDB web site.

I loved Anne of Green Gables, but Emily is a character much dearer to my heart as she is free-spirited, strong-willed, and committed to exploring her inner desires. The vastness of her imagination is matched only by that of the tremendously talented L.M. Montgomery.

These stories are captivating for readers and viewers of all ages. Montgomery's stories make for great family entertainment. You should give them a try!

4 Comments on , last added: 5/17/2009
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22. Jane of Lantern Hill

“Jane, it’s the wreck of a fine man that you see before you,” he said hollowly.

“Dad . . . what is the matter?”

“Matter, says she, with not a quiver in her voice. You don’t know…I hope you never will know… what it is like to look casually out of a kitchen window, where you are discussing the shamefully low price of eggs with Mrs Davy Gardiner, and see your daughter…your only daughter …stepping high, wide and handsome through the landscape with a lion.”

Remember when you first realized the author of Anne of Green Gables had written a ton of other books besides the ones about Anne?

Maybe you found the Emily series next. Perhaps at times you harbored the heretical thought that Emily of New Moon was even better than Anne of Green Gables. You always changed your mind and gave the crown back to Anne because, well, there was something a wee bit prickly about Emily; she was terribly interesting, and you certainly admired her fire and her talent, but she wasn’t exactly bosom friend material. She seemed…hmm…a little cliqueish, perhaps, in her way; she wasn’t always out looking for kindred spirits like Anne. Indeed, she had enough difficulty managing the friends she already had. Emily didn’t need you: she had Ilse and Teddy and her art. Not to mention all that nonsense with Dean Priest, who, let’s be honest, kind of creeped you out from the start. And you knew it would be no use trying to warn Emily; that would just have put her back up.

Still, you were so glad you met her.

Perhaps it ended there, with Emily and Anne. Or maybe, just maybe, you were lucky enough to discover the others, the Pat books, the Story Girl duo, the one-offs, the story collections…and if you were very lucky indeed, maybe one day you met Jane of Lantern Hill.

jane_of_lantern_hillOh, Jane, that practical, capable, matter-of-fact miss. At first it is easy to underestimate her: she seems to lack the spunk and impulsiveness that make Anne and Emily so entertaining. Anne has barely arrived at Green Gables when she’s blowing up at Mrs. Lynde; and Emily, my goodness, the way she bursts out from under the table quivering with rage at all the aunts and uncles criticizing her father after his funeral: could you help but applaud? But Jane seems so quiet, so put-upon, so cowed by her horrible grandmother. Sure, you can see she’s seething inside, but isn’t that the point? Anne and Emily don’t seethe: they erupt. You keep waiting for Jane to erupt, practically begging her to.

But Jane’s not the erupting type, and what makes her story so satisfying is that she isn’t a prodigy—not of feistiness, nor imagination, nor talent. She’s an average Jane: which means that if Jane can fix up the mess that is her life, anyone can.

When we meet Jane, she and her mother are living with the aforementioned horrible grandmother. At first Jane’s mom seems like a Mrs. Lennox type a la Secret Garden, and you’re half-expecting typhoid to kill her off. But no, there she is fluttering in for a goodnight kiss on her way to a party, and the tear in her eye belies her lighthearted manner. Mummy’s in pain, Jane knows, and she needn’t look farther than Grandmother’s scowl to see why.

Jane’s mother’s family is Old Money, though the neighborhood is decaying around the family mansion. Jane’s cousins got all the talent, brains, and looks, it seems (Jane’s relatives are somewhat hard to distinguish from the obnoxious family of another meek-but-seething Montgomery heroine, Valancy Stirling of The Blue Castle)—but anyone with sense can see that cousin Phyllis and the rest of them are snooty, unimaginative bores, and Jane’s the only one with any salt to her. She’s warmhearted enough to care about the plight of the orphan next door, and she’s alert enough to be interested in the bustle of the servants, particularly the kitchen staff. Mostly Jane longs for something to do, something or someone to take care of. This desire to be active, not passive, is at the heart of Jane’s story. As a small child she entertains herself by imagining “moon sprees,” flights of fancy involving a host of imaginary chums who help her polish the dull and tarnished moon into a gleaming silver orb. This rather quirky fantasy (the quirkiest thing about Jane, really) is an expression of her longing for warm camaraderie, a happy family circle, a cozy hearth, and some soul-satisfying work to do. In her mind all these things are wrapped up together: Jane longs for the warmth and liveliness of a loving family, and she wants to be one of the people involved in the domestic bustle that creates a cozy and welcoming home. Her grandmother’s mansion is as cold and sterile as the dark side of the moon—the place to which her imaginary creatures must go when they are sulky or lazy, and from which they return “chilled to the bone,” eager to warm themselves up with extra-vigorous polishing.

Until age ten, these imaginary moon sprees are Jane’s only outlet for the urge to do, to work, to transform what is cold and lifeless to something warm and bright. Her tyrannical, hypercritical grandmother makes all decisions having to do with Jane and her mother. The mother is like a butterfly trapped in a cage, miserable, helpless. Jane’s father is absent: she has been led to believe he is dead. Then one day a rather nasty schoolmate discloses a disgraceful secret: Jane’s father isn’t dead; he’s alive and well and living on Prince Edward Island. Her mother, claims nasty Agnes, left him when Jane was three years old.

“Aunt Dora said she would likely have divorced him, only divorces are awful hard to get in Canada, and anyhow all the Kennedys think divorce is a dreadful thing.”

Jane is appalled by this knowledge, but it galvanizes rather than paralyzes her. The passive child becomes a girl of action. Her first action is to demand truth—she marches into a tea party and asks the question point blank: “Is my father alive?” Her mother answers simply “yes,” and this truth sets Jane—gradually and eventually, and not without some pain—free.

Another year passes before the event that will change Jane’s life forever: and here again transformation is possible only when someone who has been passive takes some positive action. Jane’s father writes a letter. He wants Jane to spend a month with him the following summer. Jane, despite the waves of fury emanating from her powerful grandmother and the fear and sorrow pouring out of her mother, chooses to go.

The magic of their reunion is enhanced by the glories of a Prince Edward Island June, but we sense that Jane, given the opportunity to roll up her sleeves and get to work, could bring a sparkle and warmth to any place. Her connection with her long-lost father is immediate: he is a kindred spirit from the first moment of meeting. Of course it helps that she recognizes him from a picture she clipped from a newspaper, a photo of a respected writer whose essays were above young Jane’s head but whose face charmed her for reasons she could not fathom at the time.

“Here’s your baby,” said Aunt Irene. “Isn’t she a little daughter to be proud of, ‘Drew? A bit too tall for her age perhaps, but . . .”

“A russet-haired jade,” said a voice.

Only four words . . . but they changed life for Jane. Perhaps it was the voice more than the words . . . a voice that made everything seem like a wonderful secret just you two shared. Jane came to life at last and looked up.

Peaked eyebrows . . . thick reddish-brown hair springing back from his forehead . . . a mouth tucked in at the corners . . . square cleft chin . . . stern hazel eyes with jolly looking wrinkles around them. The face was as familiar to her as her own.

“Kenneth Howard,” gasped Jane. She took a quite unconscious step towards him.

The next moment she was lifted in his arms and kissed. She kissed him back. She had no sense of strangerhood. She felt at once the call of that mysterious kinship of soul which has nothing to do with the relationships of flesh and blood. In that one moment Jane forgot that she had ever hated her father. She liked him . . . she liked everything about him from the nice tobaccoey smell of his heather-mixture tweed suit to the firm grip of his arms around her. She wanted to cry but that was out of the question so she laughed instead . . . rather wildly, perhaps, for Aunt Irene said tolerantly, “Poor child, no wonder she is a little hysterical.”

Father set Jane down and looked at her. All the sternness of his eyes had crinkled into laughter.

“Are you hysterical, my Jane?” he said gravely.

How she loved to be called “my Jane” like that!

“No, father,” she said with equal gravity. She never spoke of him or thought of him as “he” again.

Long estrangement notwithstanding, Jane’s dad is practically perfect—except for his blind spot where his officious, patronizing, meddling older sister, the poisonously sweet Aunt Irene, is concerned. Jane, a shrewd lass, puts two and two together and begins to see that her parents’ marriage was sabotaged from the get-go: with Aunt Irene on one side and Grandmother on the other, the young couple hardly stood a chance. Both Grandmother and Irene exercise a vast amount of power, each in her way, one ruling with an iron fist and the other insinuating herself between the newlyweds with damaging words like the dangerous, delicate tendrils of an edifice-crumbling vine.

Slowly Jane pieces together the mystery of what shattered her parents’ marriage. One of the most satsifying things about the book is Jane’s fairmindedness, her calm, unflinching gaze. She sees her parents’ mistakes and flaws—and adores them anyway. She will brook no criticism of either one from Grandmother, Aunt Irene, nor anyone else.

Her gradual understanding of the forces that separated her parents takes place against a backdrop of domestic zeal, for in reuniting with her father, Jane finds, at last, Something to Do, a vocation she can throw herself into with energy: keeping house. The quest for just the right home is one of the best parts of the book: Jane holds fast to a certainty that she’ll know the right house by its “lashings of magic,” and after Jane and Dad have ruled out a number of adequate but unmagical houses, they hear about a little place that is vintage L. M. Montgomery.

“The Jimmy Johns have one, I hear,” said the man. “Over at Lantern Hill. The house their Aunt Matilda Jollie lived in. There’s some of her furniture in it, too, I hear…It’s two miles to Lantern Hill and you go by Queen’s Shore.”

The Jimmy Johns and a Lantern Hill and an Aunt Matilda Jollie! Jane’s thumbs pricked. Magic was in the offing.

Jane saw the house first . . . at least she saw the upstairs window in its gable end winking at her over the top of a hill. But they had to drive around the hill and up a winding lane between two dikes, with little ferns growing out of the stones and young spruces starting up along them at intervals.

And then, right before them, was the house . . . their house!

“Dear, don’t let your eyes pop quite out of your head,” warned dad.

It squatted right against a little steep hill whose toes were lost in bracken. It was small . . . you could have put half a dozen of it inside 60 Gay. It had a garden, with a stone dike at the lower end of it to keep it from sliding down the hill, a paling and a gate, with two tall white birches leaning over it, and a flat-stone walk up to the only door, which had eight small panes of glass in its upper half. The door was locked but they could see in at the windows. There was a good-sized room on one side of the door, stairs going up right in front of it, and two small rooms on the other side whose windows looked right into the side of the hill where ferns grew as high as your waist, and there were stones lying about covered with velvet green moss.

There was a bandy-legged old cook-stove in the kitchen, a table and some chairs. And a dear little glass-paned cupboard in the corner fastened with a wooden button.

On one side of the house was a clover field and on the other a maple grove, sprinkled with firs and spruces, and separated from the house lot by an old, lichen-covered board fence. There was an apple-tree in the corner of the yard, with pink petals falling softly, and a clump of old spruces outside the garden gate.

“I like the pattern of this place,” said Jane.

“Do you suppose it’s possible that the view goes with the house?” said dad.

Jane had been so taken up with her house that she had not looked at the view at all. Now she turned her eyes on it and lost her breath over it. Never, never had she seen . . . had she dreamed anything so wonderful.

(snip, though I could happily quote the entire book)

Jane said nothing at first. She could only look. She had never been there before but it seemed as if she had known it all her life. The song the sea-wind was singing was music native to her ears. She had always wanted to “belong” somewhere and she belonged here. At last she had a feeling of home.

Although this reads like a happy ending, it’s actually just the beginning of Jane’s story. First she finds a house, then she makes a home, throwing herself into housekeeping with remarkable facility, fearlessly attempting everything from cooking to roof-mending to silver-polishing, and mastering pretty much all of it except pie crust (which, to Jane’s everlasting irritation, happens to be Aunt Irene’s specialty). At last, at last, Jane can do to her heart’s content. And once she starts doing, there is no stopping her. The formerly lonely and reserved child makes friends at every turn, reveling in the eccentricities of her Lantern Hill neighbors; she tackles a bit of matchmaking between some warmhearted old maids and the impoverished city orphan-child who was once her only friend; she even, in a farfetched yet somehow utterly believable turn of events, captures a runaway circus lion. The sight that causes her poor father such palpitations of the heart, as chronicled in the quote at the top of this post—his “only daughter stepping high, wide, and handsome through the landscape with a lion”—is a snapshot of the confident, collected girl Jane has become. The rest of the town is blown away by this lion-taming business, but Jane does not see what all the fuss is about. She saw a job that needed doing, and she did it. Neither foolhardy nor rash, Jane triumphs over the object of her fear by taking its measure and determining it to be a much weaker creature than its reputation allowed: he is a weary old cat, not a monster, she realizes; and armed with this knowledge, she is able to take command of the situation. Tyrranical grandmothers and meddling aunties had best beware.

Jane’s levelheadedness, her lack of drama even when dramatic events are unfolding around her, is part of what makes her such a refreshing heroine. She is not elfin and uncannily wise like Emily, nor precocious and preternaturally empathetic like Anne. She is no emotional firestorm, smashing her slate on someone’s head, engaging in bitter quarrels, or collapsing into sobs over a poignant daydream. Jane is an ordinary girl, with ordinary tastes and abilities, and that’s exactly what makes her story so satisfying: when we look at Jane we see just how extraordinary an “ordinary girl” can be.

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23. Holiday Book Bonanza ‘09: Elleke Boehmer

By Kirsty McHugh, OUP UK

It has become a holiday tradition on the OUPblog to ask our favorite people about their favourite books. empire writingThis year we asked authors to participate (OUP authors and non-OUP authors). For the next two weeks we will be posting their responses which reflect a wide variety of tastes and interests, in fiction, non-fiction and children’s books. Check back daily for new books to add to your 2010 reading lists. If that isn’t enough to keep you busy next year check out all the great books we have discovered during past holiday seasons: 2006, 2007, 2008 (US), and 2008 (UK).

Elleke Boehmer is Professor of World Literature at Wolfson College, Oxford and is internationally known for her research in postcolonial writing and theory, and the literature of empire. She has written or edited five books for OUP: Scouting for Boys, Empire Writing, Nelson Mandela: A Very Short Introduction, Empire, the National, and the Postcolonial, 1890-1920, and Colonial and Postcolonial Literature.

My favourite books keep changing their line-up, with new number ones jostling for attention in phases, depending on shifting interests and moods.

As far as my favourite children’s book is concerned however I will always come back to LM Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, 101 this year, which I must first have read aged about 11 and like so many bookish provincial girls the world over related to at once. As the tale of the parentless redhead who grows up with elderly Matthew and Marilla in Canada’s smallest province, Prince Edward Island, where the soil is as red as her hair, Anne is the ultimate ugly duckling girl’s story. What young teenage reader of that era, I wonder, would not have identified with harum-scarum Anne in her quest for family, friendship, poetry and love, in roughly that order, and who succeeds in that quest without losing her charm and her propensity for falling into ‘scrapes’? I certainly identified, with a vengeance, to the extent that, aged 17, I railroaded and cycled all the way from Toronto to PEI in order to see Anne’s island for myself.

My favourite book for adults at the present time is another story about a child, this time a boy, JM Coetzee’s Boyhood, the first in his ‘self-cannibalizing’ trilogy (to quote Zadie Smith) Scenes from Provincial Life. Boyhood presents as a fiction, in memoir form, as some of the scenes appear to emerg

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24. Canadian World

I've been reading (and loving) the latest Paul Collins,  The Book of William: How Shakespeare's First Folio Conquered the World, and was intrigued by his mention of a Japanese tourist attraction called Canadian World.

I immediately went to google it and found an article from Canadian Business which contains the following intelligence:

A thousand kilometres north of Tokyo, along a lonely country highway cutting through blue foothills and red pine, stands a sign that makes locals cringe: "Welcome to Canadian World." Here, in the remote heart of volcanic, sparsely populated Hokkaido island, is a perfect reproduction of Prince Edward Island's 19th-century Green Gables homestead, right down to the bedpans. It should be an idyllic place, a celebration of Japan's unlikely yet enduring love affair with Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables novels. But the paint is peeling and the house is silent, surrounded by acres of weeds. Gone are the fields of lavender and the tourists who came to live out their fantasies from the Anne stories. Canadian World is a ghost town.

And you can find a picture of the Hokkaido Green Gables here.

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25. Matthew insists on puffed sleeves

and Anne her e. But what's the difference between gray and grey?

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