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Beauty And Mischief In 'Anne Of Green Gables'

Aug 2, 2008 (Weekend Edition Saturday)

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In honor of the 100th anniversary of Anne of Green Gables, the Modern Library has released a special edition of Lucy Maud Montgomery's beloved young-adult novel.

When it was first published in 1908, Anne of Green Gables sold 19,000 copies in the first five months. The novel follows the story of a young orphan named Anne Shirley, sent by mistake to live on a farm on Prince Edward Island in Canada. The pair who run the place, a lonely brother and sister, had sent for a boy orphan to help them on the farm. Instead, they got Anne, an outspoken redhead with braids and a knack for getting into mischief.

"I think that in some ways what L.M. Montgomery managed to do was create the most perfect type of a certain spirited girl," says writer Gwenda Bond, who writes about children's books and young-adult literature on her literary blog Shaken & Stirred. "It was really the first time that we encountered such a character as Anne Shirley, who was so imaginative, was always getting into trouble and really was set apart by her intelligence, more than anything else."

Bond tells Weekend Edition Saturday host Scott Simon that one of the great things about the book is Anne's misadventures.

The book "almost has a plot that we're not used to seeing anymore," Bond says, "a very picaresque plot where we see Anne get into one scrape after another and always sort of come out of them on the other side because she meant well and things just go awry."

Another part of the book's charm, she says, is the beauty with which Anne describes the setting. "As a child, I thought Canada was this beautiful, unspoiled paradise."

"Anne is constantly disappointed by the real names of places and is giving them more elaborate names that actually capture the beauty that she sees in them," Bond says.

After the brother dies, Anne feels guilty because she still sees all the beauty in the world. In some ways, Bond says, it becomes more bright even in her grief.

"And there's this great line that says, 'Life still called to her with many insistent voices,'" she says. "And, I just think that is beautiful."

Bond tells Simon that Anne — and that's Anne with an 'e' — has left her mark on young-adult literature.

"It's almost impossible to imagine what children's books would be like without this book and its history," Bond says.

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