Goodnight, Anne – Kallie George and Geneviève Godbout, Tundra Books, 2018
The cover of Kallie George and Geneviève Godbout’s new introduction to Anne of Green Gables for the youngest readers seems a beautiful and lulling invitation to sleep. If you are too young to have even heard of Anne Shirley, the little girl asleep on a tree limb, wrapped in a floral fringed blanket, is calm and soothing. Her red braids are as still as the rest of her. Her eyes are closed and smile is evidence of a lovely dream. Actually, children are about to meet Anne Shirley, the irrepressible heroine of L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series. When awake, she is a dynamic and exciting dreamer, even in her waking dreams. Young readers could not have a better introduction to Anne.
Goodnight, Anne is appealing to adults, as well, but is not the kind of almost-parody of, for example, the BabyLit series, whose charming pictures are appealing to toddlers while reminding grown-ups of books which they may not have read in a while. George and Godbout have created an absolutely sincere and unaffected homage to Anne, with simple text that suggest the spirit of the original without attempting to summarize. In fact, the book begins with a short conversation between Anne and her guardian, Marilla, without any explanation of who these characters are.
On the following two pages, we meet Marilla’s kind and generous brother, Matthew: “Goodnight, Matthew, shy and sweet./Thank you so much for the dress/with real puffed sleeves.” This immersion in Anne’s life without formal introductions is an unusual approach to reframing a classic. It works. A child enjoying the book with an adult can ask questions; they usually do! However, since Godbout’s pictures eloquently express the love and care of the adults in Anne’s life, children may simply understand without words the role that these people play.
Goodnight, Anne is the second book by Kallie George to extend L.M. Montgomery’s audience. Anne Arrives, reached middle grade readers. George shows the same fidelity to the spirit of the original Anne series in this picture book, an even more challenging task. Readers of Anne of Green Gables know that Marilla, although ultimately revealed to be a deeply caring maternal figure, is initially strict, even harsh. Here is George’s brief and poetic admission of this fact:
“Yes, Marilla, sensible and strict.
Sometimes, oh, how much you miss!
But goodnight, Marilla.
I love you so.”
In Godbout’s stunningly gorgeously illustrations, Anne’s imagination allows her to literally float on the page, as in one image of her bidding goodnight to the Lake of Shining Waters, a pond with a much more prosaic name that she had elevated to her fantasy world in the original book. In other pictures, she is more grounded, although she still conveys an almost otherworld enthusiasm for her surroundings.
In school, is delighted with her “splendid teacher,” Miss Stacy, who is pictured clasping a book to her red floral blouse as she points at the blackboard. Anne looks mesmerized by her teacher, and white butterflies extend across both pages of this scene. Green is the dominant color in this story set in Prince Edward’s Island; it is both background and contrast to the bright red of geraniums, the white of Anne’s nightgown, and the black of a peaceful night. (Godbout’s The Pink Umbrella featured a similar use of one color to set the tone.)
Goodnight Anne works independently as a richly envisioned look at the world of a quirky, creative child who loves the waking world but is also ready to go to sleep. It is also an unforgettable introduction to the more complex world of L.M. Montgomery, where dreams and reality sometimes conflict.