• About Farm School

    "There are obviously two educations. One should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live."
    James Adams, from his essay "To 'Be' or to 'Do': A Note on American Education", 1929

    We're a Canadian family of five, farming, home schooling, and building our own house. I'm nowhere near as regular a blogger as I used to be.

    The kids are 18/Grade 12, 16/Grade 11, and 14/Grade 10.

    Contact me at becky(dot)farmschool(at)gmail(dot)com

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Not quite, but almost, you know

“When I lived with Mrs. Thomas [before coming to Green Gables to live with Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert] she had a bookcase in her sitting room with glass doors. There weren’t any books in it; Mrs. Thomas kept her best china and her preserves there — when she had any preserves to keep. One of the doors was broken. Mr. Thomas smashed it one night when he was slightly intoxicated. But the other was whole and I used to pretend that my reflection in it was another little girl who lived in it. I called her Katie Maurice, and we were very intimate. I used to talk to her by the hour, especially on Sunday, and tell her everything. Katie was the comfort and consolation of my life. We used to pretend that the bookcase was enchanted and that if I only knew the spell I could open the door and step right into the room where Katie Maurice lived, instead of into Mrs. Thomas’s shelves of preserves and china. And then Katie Maurice would have taken me by the hand and led me out into a wonderful place, all flowers and sunshine and fairies, and we would have lived there happy forever after. When I went to live with Mrs. Hammond it just broke my heart to leave Katie Maurice. She felt it dreadfully too, I know she did, for she was crying when she kissed me good-bye through the bookcase door. There was no bookcase at Mrs. Hammond’s. But just up the river a little way from the house there was a long green little valley, and the loveliest echo lived there. It echoed back every word you said, even if you didn’t talk a bit loud. So I imagined that it was a little girl called Violetta and we were great friends and I loved her almost as well as I loved Katie Maurice — not quite, but almost, you know. The night before I went to the asylum I said goodbye to Violetta, and oh, her good-bye came back to me in such sad, sad tones. I had become so attached to her that I hadn’t the heart to imagine a bosom friend at the asylum, even if there had been any scope for imagination there.”

Anne to Marilla at the beginning of Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery, 1908

The old Anne-girl turns 100 this year, and to cash in celebrate, Miss Montgomery’s heirs authorized Canadian author Budge Wilson to write a “prequel” (no, I don’t much care for the word or the concept), Before Green Gables, which will be published by Penguin on Thursday. Ordinarily, centennial celebrations and such fill me with glee, but with my beloved Anne I feel oddly down in the dumps. Not enough scope for the imagination, I think.

While in town on Sunday with the kids for rehearsal, I happened to pick up a copy of The National Post, where I found an article about the new Wilson book. Some snippets from the article:

[Author Budge] Wilson agonized for two months before taking on the project from the publisher, Penguin. She says she still isn’t sure what Montgomery would think of someone writing a new story about Anne: “I wondered whether L.M. Montgomery would want me to do this, or anybody to do this.” …

Kate Macdonald Butler, one of Montgomery’s grandchildren and the spokesperson for the heirs, was crying after reading the first few pages. “It was so beautiful how she wrote about Anne’s parents,” she said in an interview from Toronto. “I was looking for Kleenex on page 4.”

Macdonald Butler never met her grandmother but she feels sure that Montgomery (who died in 1942) would be pleased. “I don’t think she’s rolling in her grave.”

She’s well aware there will be criticism. “The purists don’t want you to touch the story.” …

Macdonald Butler, who is on the board of the Anne of Green Gables Licensing Authority, says she’s glad the family managed to publish a prequel before anybody else did. The finished product could make “a lot of money,” she admits, and the family is considering doing a movie based on Wilson’s book.

Better known, of course, as noted on the Prince Edward Island website, as “Anne of Green GablesTM“.

Oh dear. What I need to take the commercial chill off is a nice stiff, warming glass of currant wine, preferably with a raspberry cordial chaser.

If I weren’t such a curmudgeon, and if Anne weren’t such a special childhood friend, I just might find the thought intriguing of being able to slip Before Green Gables on my 10-year-old daughter’s “to be read” pile, just on top of Anne of Green Gables, so she could read the stories in so-called chronological order. But I’m square in the “if L.M. Montgomery had meant the story to start before Green Gables, she would have written it that way” camp. So I’m going to let my daughter I’ll let my daughter discover them, as I did, free of any imagined backstory.

More celebratory cashing in:

Penguin Canada’s 100 Years of Anne website; with Events here (including “high tea” next Sunday with Miss Wilson and Ms. Macdonald Butler; I think they mean afternoon or cream tea, rather than the supper-ish high tea…) and Activities (recipes, a bookmark, and stationery to download) here. And am I the only one surprised to find L.M. Montgomery listed third and last on the Authors page?

Anne 2008

7 Responses

  1. I wonder if 8 is too young to appreciate Anne as a read-aloud? Thanks for mentioning the centennial. Sounds like a good excuse for a family trip to Prince Edward Island. We had a trip to Scandinavia in summer 2005, and then realized we’d be there for Hans Christian Andersen’s bicentennial and Pippi’s 40th anniversary.

  2. Well, having adopted The Land of Anne as my home, I should comment on this. I have a lot of conflicting feelings about an Anne “prequel”! I really, really loathe money-grabbing marketing feats, and poor Anne with a “TM” after her name is already one of those.

    Saying that, I know of the author and she seems like a lovely older lady, a spitfire of a children’s author, and was deeply honoured to be selected to write the book. I hope she has at least made a good effort.

    Besides cashing in on the centennial, I think the heirs wanted to get “their” book out before Sullivan productions (who made the first very nice TV adaptations and the not-so-credible later efforts) came out with their own TV story of Anne before the Island. I shudder to think of what they are going to invent.

    Thanks, as usual, for bringing such an interesting bit of news to the rest of us, with great commentary.

  3. Oh dear. A prequel. How sad.

    I have all of L.M. Montgomery’s books (1940’s editions) that I inherited from a close family friend who considered herself an aunt. She was a retired school teacher and had never married. I had read the first three Anne books when I was 9 as my sister gave them to me for Christmas… but we met this lady the next year. She would loan me the books and I think she loved me because I returned them in exactly the same condition they were when I received them.

    I spent my pre-teens immersed in the worlds of Anne, Emily, Marigold, Pat, Jane, and whoever else I’m missing. They are all precious to me.

    Before she died, my “aunt” sent me the entire collection. Along with her Royal Albert Petit Point tea set.

    All of this to say that I won’t be buying or reading this new prequel. I couldn’t bear to. I have always felt that Lucy Maud herself did a fabulous job of giving us the flavour of Anne’s life pre-Green Gables (as per your quote and other references to it Anne makes) in the first three books. I never felt the need to dig into Anne’s past any further.

    I’m in the dumps with you, Becky.

  4. How very sad. I still haven’t forgiven them for that awful third movie they made, and now this!

  5. Hi, I’m clarifying some Anne stuff again, having been steeped in it a bit more by living here. Sorry it’s so long-winded.

    I may have the history a bit fuzzy in places, but I think a production company called Sullivan Entertainment bought the rights to make the first two television productions. I was in Virginia when “Anne of Green Gables” was shown on PBS’s WonderWorks (late 1980s?) and I acquired a big soft spot for PEI and its fictional heroine.

    As most of you may know, the first one was pretty true to the books (that’s why it had to be so many episodes long!), except that the wonderful Richard Farnsworth did not share Matthew’s bushy beard, and Colleen Dewhurst’s peerless Marilla was rather big-boned than the small, spare Marilla of the book. Trifles.

    The second TV production (“Anne of Avolea” in the States) strayed a fair bit. The third one was the characters as paper dolls of somebody’s rather poor imagination. At some point Sullivan stopped paying the LMM (Lucy Maud Montgomery) heirs what the heirs thought the rights were worth and a split occurred. The heirs were also pretty upset about the loss of control over the portrayals.

    Sullivan Entertainment knows its market worldwide with the Red-Haired Orphan Cash Cow and is ready for it, producing cartoons and websites and now the prequel TV series with TV corporation CTV. I cannot possibly imagine how brown-crayon-in-water that series will be in relation to the hot cocoa of the LMM books.

    I think the LMM heirs thought that maybe they could have some first crack at a prequel book they approved of, and of course make some money, since they are still pretty estranged from the Ontartio-based Sullivan group and any royalties from the later videos. I said earlier that the author picked by LMM heirs is probably a kindred spirit. Her name is Budge Wilson, she is now 80 years old and is from New Brunswick. She really hesitated, wondering how she would feel if one of her characters were “prequeled” after her death, but decided she loved the character of Anne and hoped she could provide some insight as to how such an articulate child could have come from such a pinched and neglected background.

    So while I am not going to run out to buy the book, I’ll read it at some point. I won’t watch the TV show!! Thanks, Becky, for letting me ramble on and point out which group is mucking around with Anne!

  6. Thanks, Chris, for all the information and for taking the time to sort it all out.

    Much as I loved the original series (though it still didn’t look like “my” version in my head while reading the books), it saddens me that Anne and Green Gables have long been commodities, and that now there is this tussle to be “first” across the prequel finish line. Ick.

    It’s all of piece in my mind with the Disneyfication of Winnie the Pooh. Sigh…

  7. 8 is definitely not too young for Anne!

    In celebration of the 100th anniversary, we’ve just finished reading unabridged Anne of Green Gables to our 6 and 8 year old daughters and they have laughed and shrieked and gasped and stomped and giggled (and put up with ME crying) all the way through. We have all enjoyed every minute of it!

    We’ll be attending the festivities in Toronto tomorrow, so tune into JustOneMoreBook! Wednesday if you’d like to hear a chat with the author, Budge Wilson, among others.

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