Welcome to Allison from Allison’s Book Bag
Lucy Maud Montgomery is one of my absolute favorite authors. She is Canadian like me and situated her stories in her beloved province of Prince Edward Island. Her first book Anne of Green Gables, published in 1908, has sold more than 50 million copies and become a classic orphan story. For these reasons, I felt nervous about reviewing her book. However do I critique a book which has so strongly won the heart of myself and so many people worldwide?
For those unfamilar with Montgomery’s book, this is the story of a red-headed orphan girl sent to Marilla Cuthbert and her brother Matthew by mistake. They had requested a boy from a nearby orphanage to help with the farmwork but by providence received a girl. Anne Shirley was no ordinary girl either. For one thing, she wanted her name spelled with an E. Actually, she would rather be called Cordelia. For another, she had hair as “red as carrots” and a temper just as furious. She was a girl of moods and imagination, both of which landed her in no small heap of trouble.
To name only two examples: One day in a fit of temper Anne whacked a slate over a boy’s head at school. In her defense, he did taunt Anne about her hair–the one thing she could never imagine away and moreover viewed as a curse because it supposedly kept her from being happy and good. Another time, she and her bosom friend imagined that a host of murderous ghosts lived in the nearby wood. Anne later faced a terrifying walk when ordered to take that very route, the woods being the shortest and most direct path, to fetch an apron pattern from their neighbors.
When rereading the book for this review, certain aspects stood out. The first chapter is from the viewpoint of an adult in the community, not Anne, and so might confuse readers. Those who make it to the second chapter will finally discover and fall in love with Anne. I was surprised at how strongly Montgomery’s voice, her opinions and passions, come through Anne and the folks of Avonlea. I had never noticed her grown-up undertone in earlier readings, being caught up with Anne’s plight as an unwanted orphan, but it helped me still appreciate the book as an adult. The book is far more than just a classic orphan story, being also about imagination and emotions, piety and faith, growing up and changing, friendship and love. Last, Montgomery impressed me with how well she handled writing about not just one year but several years of Anne’s life. In so many books, authors rely so heavily on summaries to show passage of time that the books bore me. In contrast, because Montgomery selected mostly main events to depict from Anne’s life, I continued to adore Anne.
Perhaps few children’s books have influenced me as much as Anne of Green Gables. As a starry-eyed avid reader, I ironically craved red hair like hers. In my early adulthood, I even made good on that wish by dying my hair auburn–with far less disastrous results than Anne experienced when dying her hair. Like Anne, for most of my childhood I too ached for a kindred spirit. For me, this meant finding someone who loved to read and write children’s stories. I found one such bosom buddy in college. The two of us spent hours swapping episodes from our favorite books and whole days acting out those adventures. Anne’s own dramatization with friends of a poem left her stranded in a sinking boat. My friend and I thankfully merely ended up with colds after tramping through streams and woods. In her adult years, Anne faced a difficult decision when awarded with a college scholarship that would take her even further away from her home. Although I did not achieve quite the academic success in my undergraduate years that Anne did, I did face choices similar to hers.
Since first reading about Anne, I have yearned to visit Prince Edward Island. This past summer, my husband and I visited Cavendish–the real life counterpart to Avonlea. I saw Green Gables and many other places which meant so much to Anne and to Montgomery herself. Montgomery and I are both island girls and storytellers, as well as individuals of moods and imagination. I wish I could have met her. Alas, we are generations apart, but her books will live forever in my heart–as I hope they will in yours too.
How long ago did you start your blog?
My blog is about a-year-and-a-half old. I started my blog June, 2010.
Why did you decide to start a blog?
One of the ways I tried to encourage my resource students to read is to have them write titles of recommended books on our white board, which I then promised to read so that we could talk about them. Near the end of the 2010 school year, I carted home about a dozen Golden Sowers—Nebraska children’s choice literary award. After I had finished reading the last of the books in my pile, my husband suggested, “You should start a blog of children’s book reviews. You’re always reading children’s books anyway. You might as well review them.” My husband loves to tease me and so at first I thought he was just tormenting me for reading so many children’s books. But, he was serious. And it turned out to be a great idea.
How did you choose your blog name?
Many students carry their school stuff in a book bag. Because my blog was inspired by students, my husband and I thought about having a picture of me with a book bag full of books. And so the name Allison’s Book Bag came about.
Ebook or hard copy?
Hard copy! I don’t have have an e-reader.
Chocolate or Vanilla?
A twist of both. J If I must pick: chocolate.
Winter or Summer?
Despite the cold: winter.
Madeleine L’Engle. I discovered her as a child and own every available book of hers.
Lucy Maud Montgomery is a close tie. A couple years, my husband and I were blessed to have the opportunity to visit Montgomery’s childhood home of Prince Edward Island.
What are you reading now?
Dumpling Days by Grace Lin…. The past few years I have attended The Plum Creek Children’s Literacy Festival to hear authors and buy books to get signed. This past year, I heard Grace Lin speak about her struggles as a Chinese American to establish an identity. She inspired me so much, I bought all her juvenile fiction.
*Thank you Allison, for sharing your review with us and taking the time to answer our questions!!!
So, go on over and check out Allison’s Blog!!!