One of the fun aspects of having wee copies of yourself running around the house is that you get to reread your favorite examples of children’s literature.
Lately, I have been performing Anne of Green Gables for the girls before bed, which has helped me crystallize my thoughts on another popular series for kids, Harry Potter.
The entire time that we read the magical tomes to the girls, I couldn’t escape the thought that while her world building and story arc were admirable, Ms. Rowling’s writing skills simply didn’t measure up to the classics that I enjoyed in younger days.
Of course, it was impossible not to wonder if I wasn’t biased, making the mistake of looking back with rose-colored glasses. But something has really struck me as we make progress with Ms. Montgomery’s story; I never change a word while I am reciting it to the Zs. With Harry Potter, I was constantly editing as I read out loud, such as rewriting the ridiculous boy-girl flirting dialog that peppered the later books. (And frankly, reading plucky Anne Shirley’s tale has made me mourn Hermione turning into a hormone-challenged, lovesick twit.)
LM Montgomery transforms Anne’s everyday life into an adventure that has the girls on the edge of their seat…well bed, and she does it with a flowing and poetic voice that is mesmerizing. It makes me admire her all the more that a book published in 1908 (it was her first novel) can capture my daughters’ imagination so completely, with nary an exploding wand to move the action along!
Below is an example of boy-girl interaction that I feel is suitable for the Zs. (I’m a bit bloodthirsty, I suppose!)
Mr. Phillips was back in the corner explaining a problem in algebra to Prissy Andrews and the rest of the scholars were doing pretty much as they pleased, eating green apples, whispering, drawing pictures on their slates, and driving crickets, harnessed to strings, up and down the aisle. Gilbert Blythe was trying to make Anne Shirley look at him and failing utterly, because Anne was at that moment totally oblivious, not only of the very existence of Gilbert Blythe, but of every other scholar in Avonlea school and of Avonlea school itself. With her chin propped on her hands and her eyes fixed on the blue glimpse of the Lake of Shining Waters that the west window afforded, she was far away in a gorgeous dreamland, hearing and seeing nothing save her own wonderful visions.
Gilbert Blythe wasn’t used to putting himself out to make a girl look at him and meeting with failure. She should look at him, that redhaired Shirley girl with the little pointed chin and the big eyes that weren’t like the eyes of any other girl in Avonlea school.
Gilbert reached across the aisle, picked up the end of Anne’s long red braid, held it out at arm’s length and said in a piercing whisper, “Carrots! Carrots!”
Then Anne looked at him with a vengeance!
She did more than look. She sprang to her feet, her bright fancies fallen into cureless ruin. She flashed one indignant glance at Gilbert from eyes whose angry sparkle was swiftly quenched in equally angry tears.
“You mean hateful boy!” she exclaimed passionately. “How dare you!”
And then — Thwack! Anne had brought her slate down on Gilbert’s head and cracked it — slate, not head — clear across.