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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

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

AnneGreenGables1 222x300 Top 100 Childrens 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 they referred to the title as “a beloved American children’s book.” One must assume that the Canadians were NOT pleased.

There haven’t been any sequels by other folks, partly because Montgomery was clever enough to write them herself.  There was, however, a relatively recent prequel.  In conjunction with Anne’s 100th birthday, Budge Wilson wrote Before Green Gables.  It met with mixed reviews, though many folks liked it.  It has, however, largely been forgotten since its publication.

  • I do believe you can visit Lucy Maud Montgomery’s house if you like.

The longer a perennially popular book has been around, the more difficult it is to find all the covers.  This is just a small selection of what I found.  For a complete collection of covers, go to The Green Gables Project.  In this tiny sample you’ll find:

AnneGreenGables2 Top 100 Childrens Novels #8: Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

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AnneGreenGables31 Top 100 Childrens Novels #8: Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Periodically the book gets filmed.  Not as often as Little Women or anything, but continually just the same.  First there was the 1919 version.  Not on YouTube, obviously, but you can listen to the theme if you really want to.  Back in 1934 there was this version, directed by George Nichols Jr.:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lw499WSH7aM&feature=embed

Then came a 1956 version, but that’s probably best left forgotten.  No, the Anne that is undeniably the best there is, bar none, came in 1985.  It was produced for television, brilliantly cast, and when people of my generation think of the book it’s hard not to conjure up Megan Follows’ face.

And, of course, there was the inevitable Japanese animated series.  One of the stranger openings of a television show I’ve seen, though kind of nice (and, stranger still, translated into Italian)P

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Elizabeth Bird About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently New York Public Library's Youth Materials Collections Specialist. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of NYPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.

Comments

  1. rams says:

    I understand the Japanese have a particularly passionate relationship with Anne. As I heard it, a missionary translated it into Japanese, and when the Allies insisted on Western education (can that be right?) after the war, it was one of the few books available. I’ve always wondered how much the changing role of Japanese women owes to a fondness for a red-headed girl breaking her slate across a boy’s head. At any rate, potatoes from PEI can name their price and dozens of Japanese young women are married in Anne’s parlor every year.

  2. Kate Coombs says:

    My friends and I once stayed up all night watching the Megan Follows’ Anne movies. We were in our 40s.

  3. DaNae says:

    If I remember right Anne moved up one space from last time. Let’s just keep going until she takes her rightful spot at number one.

    PEI is the one spot on earth I would go above any other. Which is a pretty big shout out to the impact of literature.

    My first cover is the yellowish paperback with the cameo of Anne sporting the anachronistic seventies hairdo.

  4. Yes, DaNae, it did! I remember because it hit #9 on my birthday, and I was torn between “ONLY #9?” and “YES! One of my most favorites for my birthday!”

    Anne is the #1 book heroine ever. So many characters TRY to be her: spunky imaginative redheads… and it just doesn’t work! She cannot be copied.

  5. Erika says:

    I remember having an Anne marathon in college–I think that would have been 1990. Much sighing over Gilbert…

    Anyway, there’s an animated series on PBS now, too. I’ve only glimpsed it in passing, but my daughter likes it. http://www.annetoon.com/
    And I like cover #29 the best–I think it really captures her spirit!

  6. Angela Carstensen Liz B says:

    The copyright issues with the first ANNE books are quite legendary, yet I had a bit of a hard time finding an online resource to spell it out. Her journals show that the resulting lawsuits took a lot out of Montgomery; and given some of today’s concerns of why copyright/royalties etc matter, it’s worth a look. Try this link, pages 11 & 12: https://dspace.nitle.org/bitstream/handle/10090/22870/s10enam2011ward.pdf?sequence=1 There is also the more recent battle between the heirs & the maker of the miniseries: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anne_of_Green_Gables_(1985_film)#Lawsuit which relied on the 1919 dispute.

  7. Louise says:

    I agree – Anne should be #1! She was one of my best friends when I was a child, and still is, if I’m honest. Plus she’s responsible for some of my closest friendships today; through Anne of Green Gables fanfiction I’ve met two of my dearest friends – true “kindred spirits!”

    Anne is immortal.

  8. Aaaaaaaagh!! I knew it had been a while since I checked your blog, but I somehow completely missed the new polls. 8( I doubt that any of the ratings were close enough that my single vote would really have counted, but…. Looking forward to seeing the complete lists!

  9. Kari says:

    My husband and I went to PEI for our honeymoon, knew I married the right man when he agreed to accompany me to Anne of Green Gables: The Musical! It was as cheesy and as wonderful as it sounds…

  10. Sondy says:

    Truthfully, my favorite children’s L. M. Montgomery books are the Emily books, and my favorite of hers written for adults (one of my all-time favorite books) is The Blue Castle. But this time I voted for Anne of Green Gables, because, one, it was my first LMM book, and two, it DESERVES to be #1 in this poll! I totally agree with DaNae about that.

    And I don’t actually think it’s a girly book. I read it to my sons when they were smaller. Plenty of action. They definitely enjoyed it.

  11. DaNae says:

    Kari, that is a most romantic gesture.

  12. Rachel says:

    My grandparents took me to PEI as a high school graduation trip, and it was just as wonderful as I thought it would be. The Anne village, with all the characters walking around and talking with you, the various houses in which LMM lived, the Anne musical–it’s marvelous. And really, the island would be incredible even without all the Anne stuff. It’s a gorgeous place.

  13. Karen Maurer says:

    We visited the house used as a model for Green Gables a few years ago. Lovely experience! A woman from Australia spent six weeks on Prince Edward Island, had saved money for years to make this pilgrimage. The Japanese love Anne.

    As a child, I only read “Rainbow Valley” – over and over again. About 15 years ago, I read everything by Montgomery that I could find and I began to view my decisions by asking myself “WWAD?” What would Anne do? Not a bad way to guide one’s life.

  14. What a wonderful selection of Anne of Green Gables covers you have featured. If I had to pick one for a gift, I might have a hard time though I love the vintage books and I love some of the latest fresh-looking books, like the 100th Anniversary Edition and the one with the afterward from Margaret Atwood.

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