I’m an anne-with-an-e and so it was a requirement of the universe that I’d be reading Anne of Green Gables before I escaped junior high.
Trying to read the original series has multiple hurdles that have only gotten stronger since I was a child. The series was set in rural Prince Edward Island, Canada, in a time before telephones, cars, and refrigerators. (The internet wasn’t even dreamed of.) The books were written in the early 1910s, so more than 100 years of word loss and language migration has taken place. And the story of a young white girl with red hair adopted by two older people who wanted a boy that could take over the farm isn’t exactly as easy to relate to these days as it was even when I was a teen in the 1990s.
But the story’s arc as a coming-of-age tale is certainly still relevant. People (of all ages) still need to know what a good apology looks like, why it can be hard to fit in when you’re different, that parents (and other adults) get things wrong too, and that the kid you think is a jerk might actually be more sincere than he lets on.
I’m thrilled that Anne of West Philly retells the first Anne of Green Gables story, overcoming the language barriers of the original and turning it into a graphic novel for all ages.
Some of the changes to be aware of:
- Anne is a foster child, not a straight-up adoption as she was in the original. (These days you don’t get to just send an orphan you have legally adopted back if you don’t like them, thank God.)
- Anne’s a Black girl with natural red hair.
- Anne and her friends are on Instagram, they have cell phones, they are in a robotics club, they use school busses, they’re in our society.
- The story takes place in West Philadelphia instead of a farm in Canada, which has surprisingly very little impact on the primary plot points.
- (Spoiler) Near the end of the book we learn that not only is Gilbert not Anne’s primary love interest, she’s crushing on a girl. (The story ends before we see whether Anne wins the heart of the friend she’s interested in.)
In other words, it’s the kind of story that a kid today could understand without having to know anything about rural living, Canadian geography, or English as spoken 120 years ago. A timeless story that’s reset to a time that makes it easier to enjoy.
Definitely worth reading, and I just gifted it to a teen I know.