________________ CM . . . . Volume X Number 11 . . . . January 30, 2004


Anne of Green Gables.

L.M. Montgomery. Adapted by M.C. Helldorfer. Illustrated by Ellen Beier.
New York, NY: Dell Dragonfly Books/Random House (Distributed in Canada by Random House), 2001.
40 pp., pbk., $10.99.
ISBN 0-440-41614-0.

Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 4-7.

Review by Lisa Doucet.

**1/2 /4


"Matthew Cuthbert!" Marilla exclaimed when they came in the door."Who's that? Where is the boy?"

"There was no boy only her," he replied, feeling miserable for the child.

"But we asked for a boy," his sister insisted. "We have no use for a girl."

All at once, the girl understood. "You don't want me! I should have known. No one ever did!" she said, then cried stormily. Suddenly she raised her head. "If I were beautiful, and didn't have red hair, then would you keep me?"

"We would keep you if you were a boy," Marilla replied. "Now stop your tears and tell us your name."

In this prettily illustrated adaptation of Lucy Maud Montgomery's timeless classic, M.C. Helldorfer brings the immortal Anne to a younger audience. Given the world wide popularity and wide ranging appeal of this red headed orphan, there will undoubtedly always be a market for picture book versions of Anne's story, and in this one, Helldorfer does a creditable job of incorporating many of the highlights of the original story. In its pages, young readers learn the circumstances of Anne's tumultuous arrival at Green Gables and share in several of her now famous adventures: her friendship with Diana Barry, her falling out with Marilla over a missing pin, her misadventure at school when Gilbert Blythe carries his teasing just one step too far and her disastrous attempt to dye the red hair that she so despises. In a fairly simple and straightforward style, this adaptation makes Anne of Green Gables accessible to those who might struggle with the notably descriptive language of the original. By incorporating lines from the original text, Helldorfer helps this simplified version to retain a hint of authenticity, and the delicate watercolour illustrations have a gentle expressiveness that suit the story.

     As is the case with any abridgement of a beloved classic, however, there is the concern that by altering or attempting to simplify the original you lose its very essence, and I think that that is a very legitimate concern here. Lucy Maud Montgomery is arguably best known for the beautifully detailed descriptions she employed in her writing. To be introduced to the events of her stories without the exquisite prose through which she had so vividly rendered them is to lose out on perhaps the most important part of the experience. And one cannot truly "meet" Anne without enjoying her penchant for big words and long, passionate speeches, nor can this adaptation do justice to Anne's (and Maud's) unmistakable love for and deep appreciation of the natural world around them. This is absolutely intrinsic to Anne's story, and it simply cannot be experienced in this shortened version. Therefore, while many of the major elements of the plot are adequately summarized herein, the essence of Anne and her joyful, irrepressible spirit just cannot be captured in this abridgement. While this shortened storybook version will likely satisfy youngsters who are itching to delve into the Anne stories, and it could serve as an early introduction to Montgomery's "Anne girl," I would personally favour waiting until a child were old enough to appreciate the original to share all the wonders of Anne's world with him or her. But for those who can't wait until they are ready for the original text (or for parents who can't wait to introduce their young ones to the inimitable Anne Shirley) this could be an acceptable starting point. And since it is suitably vague in terms of the later events in Anne's life, it allows children to eventually go on to read the L.M. Montgomery novels at a later time without feeling as though they've heard it all before. This adaptation, therefore, can find a place on library or bookstore shelves.


Lisa Doucet is a children's bookseller at Woozles in Halifax, NS.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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