One year for Christmas, my grandmother, who spent her life as an elementary school librarian sent me a set of books that she insisted I just had to read. I was excited because reading was the one thing I loved doing more than anything else and she always sent me great things to check out. It took me a little bit of time but I finally dived into the Anne books a couple of months later when my mom asked if I had ever gotten to reading those books that grandma had given me.
Anne is a precocious, imaginative red-head who comes to live with an austere brother and sister on a small island off the east coast of Canada. She was orphaned at a very young age and lived to read and use her imagination which was always getting her into trouble. Her passion for life and the mistakes that she made were fascinating to me. She felt so very real. I often wished that she really existed because she was definitely the kind of girl I wanted for a best friend, even though I knew she would have gotten me into all kinds of trouble. As I read through the books again and again while I grew up, I would connect with a different version of Anne. As a teenager, I understood Anne of Avonlea and Anne of Island. During my first two years of teaching, Anne of Windy Poplars was my near constant companion (when I wasn’t reading another vampire book series by a certain Mormon author). As a young wife it was Anne’s House of Dreams. I hope some day to be able to be kindred spirits with the mother version of Anne when I am lucky enough to become one.
Anne’s flaws are exactly what makes the reader love her I think. She is not the perfect heroine and is accessible in her imperfections. My favorite scene in the whole series is the time that Anne takes a slate and smashes it over Gilbert’s head after he teases her about her red hair. I love that scene not because Anne gets her vengeance of the boy who is teasing her, but because she loses her temper quite often, something I was quite good at when I was younger. It was nice to see a heroine who lost hers all the time as well. Anne’s overactive imagination that makes her afraid of the dark forest was also comforting to me. I was a kid who was afraid of many things growing up due to my overactive imagination. Many times I felt like I was the only one. Anne made it okay to be afraid and to know that it was irrational but that it was okay. Anne never felt like she was pretty because of her freckles and red hair. I was a plump kid who never felt like I fit in next to the stick figures that I grew up with. Anne helped me be okay with who I was in a way that adults around me could never convince me of.
If you have yet to discover the amazing character that is L.M. Montgomery’s Anne, I would suggest going out and getting copies of the seven book series for yourself and any other little girl you know who doesn’t quite fit in. I’m on my third set of books now (I’ve worn out two sets over the last twenty years) and I know that if I have a daughter, Anne will feature prominently in her childhood and beyond as well because every girl should meet and grow up with Anne.