By Maureen Tai, 31 December 2018
“I do wish I could imagine away this red hair. I can do that with my freckles and scrawniness and rotten green eyes – even my boring old name, “Anne” – but not this hair. It is my lifelong sorrow.” – Anne Shirley
On a day traditionally spent in wistful retrospection and excited anticipation of new beginnings, it seems fitting to revisit a much-loved classic that has been retold anew in graphic novel form. Anne (with an “e”, she’ll have you mind) is the spirited, wildly imaginative and irrepressible protagonist of one of my childhood favourites, Anne of Green Gables by the prolific Canadian author, Lucy Maud Montgomery (1874 – 1942). I think Ms. Montgomery would have found the beautifully illustrated graphic novel adaptation very much to her liking.
The Avonlea that I imagined as a child was lush and green, surrounded by forests of soaring trees and carpets of wildflowers, never-ending grassy meadows and winding streams, and white-washed wooden houses encircled by white picket fences. The graphic novel has all that, and more, gorgeously illustrated in gentle natural colours that charm and sooth. Anne’s deep-seated love of Green Gables, nature and the passing seasons are infused on every page. Brenna Thummler is a singularly talented artist.
Anne’s story begins with a patient wait at a railway station. She has a carpet bag on her lap and a straw boater on her head. The brightest colour on the page – on most of the pages of the book – are her fiery orange plaits, a constant reminder of Anne’s vivacity. Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, a brother and sister, have adopted an orphan to help on their family farm. When Matthew arrives at the railway station, he is surprised to find a girl orphan in lieu of a boy, yet he gently helps the loquacious Anne into his horse drawn buggy and takes her back to the farm. Back at Green Gables, crusty and stern Marilla is more practical and less forgiving. She can’t see how a scrawny chatterbox like Anne is of any use to the Cuthberts and insists that Anne be sent back to the orphan asylum the next morning. Less than a day spent in the extraordinary company of Anne is all it takes for Marilla to change her mind. Anne returns to Green Gables, and from then on, the Cuthbert’s and Anne Shirley’s intertwined lives are forever altered.
In the months that follow, Anne settles into her new life in Avonlea. She goes on a picnic and tastes ice cream for the first time, starts school and deliberately breaks a writing slate over a schoolmate’s head, inadvertently intoxicates her new bosom friend and saves the life of a small child. Wherever Anne goes, whatever she does, she unfailingly charms all those around her with her chatter, her imaginativeness and kindness, and her unflagging spirit. This graphic novel adaptation stands admirably on its own while inviting a revisiting of the original novel. Anne of Green Gables is a timeless tale, and justly deserving of the adoration of generations, past, present and yet to come.
For ages 8 and up.