Alibi V.16 No.27 • July 5-11, 2007 

Book Review

How My Childhood Was Not At All Like Anne of Green Gables

Why illiteracy is sometimes best

Anne of Green Gables

Last week on vacation we stumbled across this funny street sign depicting a dude holding a book with a lightning bolt on the cover. The message was either something like, "Reading will spark your imagination" or "Danger! Books electrocute."

Advocating childrens' literacy is all the rage. We want them to expand their imaginations and learn, to become empowered by their ability to acquire knowledge. But sometimes children's literature sets up false expectations.

I've read nearly every Nancy Drew novel, including the old-school hardbacks. Never did my examination of "mysteries" result in anything other than the school principal coming to my class to lambaste my petition to "investigate" the gym teacher for making me do push-ups in stickers.

In the Anne of Green Gables series, Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery writes of a bad-tempered, impetuous and imaginative orphan girl who quickly adapts to her surroundings and is eventually loved by all. The eight books in the series about Anne and her children made it seem as though a big mouth could become an asset, ugly girls all grow beautiful to someone and trials are merely anecdotes to be laughed through.

Of course, I loved them. But life was never quite as idyllic as the one described on Prince Edward Island. Why not blame Canada, eh?

Anne of Green Gables My Childhood
1. A huge cherry tree grows in Green Gables, so chock-full of blossoms there is nary a leaf in view. 1. A giant pine tree, twice as tall as our house, grew in the front yard. Its roots damaged the sewer system and plumbing under our house.
2. The mischievous and handsome Gilbert yanks Anne's hair and calls her "Carrots," at which point Anne stands up and breaks her slate clean in half over his head. 2. Once a boy named Cayce who wore a purple Alf T-shirt every day and was a foot shorter than I tried to kiss me. I kicked him "where it counts," then hid in the girls' restroom for every recess from then on for fear of being kissed.
3. "Daring" is all the rage for prepubescent Avonlea girls, who after a small tea party dare one another to hop around on one foot and walk on fences. Anne is dared to walk a ridgepole, which I'm pretty sure is the peak of a pitched roof. Anne, bound by honor, walks the ridgepole and falls off, breaking her ankle. 3. I once dared my cousin to ride really fast on his Fisher Price roller skates and jump off the edge of the tile porch step and onto the driveway. He cracked open the back of his head. Blood went everywhere, on my shirt, on my hands, on the wall, on our skates, casting the whole "dare" thing into an angry, murderous pallor.
4. Anne was dissatisfied with her appearance. To alter the bane of her existence, her red hair, she tries to dye it black. The result is a head of nasty green, which is hard to wash away. 4. Many of my friends bleached bits of their hair, growing glorious highlights. I, too, wanted to add some adult fabulousness to my dingy brown hair but opted for actual bleach as the agent. The result was searing scalp pain instead of hilarity, and anger from my mother for ruining my shirt and her towels. I think I was also grounded.
5. At some point in the first book, Anne accidentally gets her pre-teen bosom buddy Dianna drunk on raspberry cordial.

6. Anne used her fanciful imagination to rename areas of beautiful countryside, like the "Dryad's Bubble" and "The Lake of Shining Waters."

7. Anne starts a Story Club to better teach her best friend how to use her thrilling imagination.
5. My fellow girl scouts intentionally got me drunk at a sleepover when I was 11 on a Coke can filled with little bits of all their parents' liquor. I puked.

6. I called the nasty lot around the corner "the nasty lot around the corner." Also, the park behind my friend's house was "the park where gangs ranked people in at night." Really. I saw a dude get ranked in by walking down an aisle with a line of people on either side, and they beat him with chains and boards and stuff. Or maybe that was my own young fanciful imagination taking flight.

7. I started a fake gang to teach other people how to follow my dictator-esque orders. While ranking people in at the nasty lot around the corner, I cut my hand on a piece of glass and it got all puffy. True story.