April 01, 2019

Anne's Kindred Spirits

Adapted by Kallie George
Illustrated by Abigail Halpin
Tundra Books
64 pp.
Ages 6-8
May 2019

I think many people take the making of friends for granted, knowing that they will meet many at school, at work or at organized activities and, with social media, having many "friends" would appear to be the norm. But I think we forget that historically and especially in rural areas, making friends would have been a very big deal. How would you communicate with them? How would you visit? For many families, your siblings became your friends, but if you were an only child, that wouldn't have been an option. So, for L. M. Montgomery's Anne, who inspired this story, making a friend would have been momentous and something for which she'd yearn.
From Anne's Kindred Spirits, adapted by Kallie George, illus. by Abigail Halpin
Anne is excited to meet Diana Barry, a reader like herself, but with hair "black as a raven's wing, not red." (pg. 15) When she asks her to be her "bosom friend, a kindred spirit who would be her best friend" (pg. 6), Diana accepts and the two make plans to attend the upcoming Sunday School Picnic. The picnic is all Anne can think about, though she is distracted by Marilla's amethyst brooch. But when the brooch goes missing and Anne admits to touching it, she is sent to her room until she confesses to losing it. 
From Anne's Kindred Spirits, adapted by Kallie George, illus. by Abigail Halpin
When the day of the picnic arrives and Marilla is determined that Anne will not attend, the imaginative and impassioned young girl admits, in a gloriously elaborate tale, to taking and losing the brooch.
From Anne's Kindred Spirits, adapted by Kallie George, illus. by Abigail Halpin
Of course, Marilla punishes Anne by not allowing her to attend the picnic and Anne is heartbroken. But when Marilla finds her brooch snagged on her shawl, she relents and allows Anne to attend the picnic and spend time with her new bosom friend, eating ice cream and boating on the Lake of Shining Waters.
"One thing's certain," she said at last. "No house will be dull as long as Anne Shirley lives in it." (pg. 63)
Kallie George's adaptation of several important stories from L. M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables are blended so well and effortlessly and yet so completely that those young readers who are still too new to reading to dive into the original book will get to know the beloved character well. Anne's spirit for storytelling and uncontrolled commentary, as well as lavish vocabulary, comes through time and time again. She is a wordsmith and a creator of emotional story because everything she does is heartfelt. From admiring a brooch or dresses with puffed sleeves to being heartsick at missing out on a picnic, Anne feels everything deeply and profoundly and expresses her thoughts and emotions with ardour, and Kallie George makes sure the reader knows this about Anne.

Abigail Halpin, who illustrated the first book, Anne Arrives (2018), in this new Anne of Green Gables-based early reader series as well as a number of picture books, gives young readers authentic visuals of a red-haired whirlwind and her new family and friends. But beyond Anne and Diana whose characters are reflective of their similarities and differences, Abigail Halpin gives us time and place that are real and heartwarming. There are the lupines of PEI and picnics, plain dresses and ones with puffed sleeves, and homes plain and decorated. There is the contrast of households and children and a melding of both in friendship.

I love that Anne of Green Gables will reach a new set of readers in a collection that early readers can gather into a special library. With colourful and endearing illustrations and accessible text authentic to the original, Kallie George and Abigail Halpin have honoured and poised Anne's story to reach not just a new generation but a younger one at that.  Irresistible.

1 comment:

  1. We will never tire of the indomitable Anne Shirley. How wonderful to see another book featuring our favourie character for another generation to enjoy! Well done, Kallie and Abigail.