Anne Arrives (Inspired by Anne of Green Gables) – Kallie George and Abigail Halpin, Tundra Books, 2018
How old must a child be to meet Anne of Green Gables? This is the Year at Anne at Canada’s Tundra Books, but they have been introducing Anne for a long time. In 2014 there were beautiful hardcover editions of L.M. Montgomery’s books with elegant lettering, floral endpapers, and ribbon markers. That same year Tundra released a paperback edition with original cover art by Elly MacKay, the author and illustrator of many acclaimed picture books. Earlier this year, Tundra gave us Kelly Hill’s board books with illustrations created in fabric and embroidery. Next week I will write about the new picture book Goodnight, Anne, also by Kallie George, and illustrator Geneviève Godbout.
Now we have the first volume of Anne’s saga for middle grade readers old enough to follow the plot and develop an enduring attachment to Montgomery’s characters. Anne Arrives begins with the red-haired orphan’s surprising appearance at siblings Matthew and Marilla’s farm, and concludes as she resolves her conflict with intrusive neighbor Rachel Lynde, a woman who had mocked Anne’s appearance, and well-deserved our heroine’s courageous expression of anger: “How dare you. You are a rude, unfeeling woman!” No wonder we love her.
Kallie George and Abigail Halpin’s new book is a distinguished collaboration, where words and pictures, as well as careful design by Jennifer Griffiths, work together to draw readers into Anne’s world. The text is limited in length, but George’s language is relatively sophisticated. She accomplishes the difficult task of capturing Montgomery’s literary style by interweaving selections from the original novel into clear and accessible sentences. Here is George’s version of Anne’s sincere if dramatic apology to Rachel Lynde:
“When they arrived, Anne threw herself down on her knees. ‘Oh, dear Mrs. Lynde, I could never express how sorry I am. Not even if I used a whole dictionary. Mrs. Lynde, please, please, please, forgive me. If you refuse, it will be another one of my lifelong sorrows.”
Here is L.M. Montgomery’s abridged recital of Anne’s remorse:
“’Oh, Mrs. Lynde, I am so extremely sorry,…I could never express all my sorrow, not if I used up a whole dictionary…I’m a dreadfully wicked and ungrateful girl, and I deserve to be punished and cast out by respectable people forever…If you refuse it will be a lifelong sorrow to me. You wouldn’t like to inflict a lifelong sorrow on a poor little orphan girl, even if she had a dreadful temper?”
Halpin’s pictures in colored pencil and watercolor are completely new interpretations of Anne’s world. Each one stands alone as a dramatic moment in Anne’s story, while in sequence they build together, along with the text, to ensure the reader’s involvement. Some pictures accompany a facing page of text; others are two-page spreads. Some are partial portraits placed against a white background, while others the pages with color. Earth and jewel tones predominate, with dark green fields, deep-red roses, and an occasional white dress or apron. Young readers may not stop to think about their immersion in this gorgeous palette, but adults will. Facial features have a deceptive simplicity, but their broad smiles or despairing frowns will help kids to empathize with Anne and the other characters. In one two page spread, an angry Anne has been sent to her room. She sits propped against pillows, on a bed so high that she might be an unlucky princess in a fairy-tale. Each surrounding object is as solitary as she is at this moment: a pair of boots on the floor, a single chair in the corner, her hat stuck on a bed post. How many ways can you illustrate loneliness?
Anne Arrives is an outstanding addition to Anne of Green Gables literature, for anyone old enough to turn pages. Make sure to be there when Anne arrives.