On November 30, 1874, Lucy Maud Montgomery was born in Prince Edward Island, Canada. Raised by her grandparents from the age of two (after her mother died and her grief-stricken father chose not to retain custody of his daughter), she was often lonely as a child, and invented a number of imaginary friends as a method of coping with her loneliness. Later, she attributed much of the development of her creativity to this period of her life.
And did that creativity pay off! In 1908, L.M. Montgomery published her first novel, Anne of Green Gables, the story of Anne Shirley, a "funny, dramatic, and gusty" (in the words of Sopha, 10, California, in response to NMG's poll about Anne!) orphan mistakenly delivered to an elderly pair of siblings who had been looking to adopt a boy. Anne of Green Gables—and the subsequent several books that the author went on to write in the series—chronicles Anne's life, as she ages from a young and lonely girl to an adult woman with children of her own. And while the Anne series is the most well-known of L. M. Montgomery's work, she also wrote a number of other novels (including the one with my favorite title: Emily of New Moon!), as well as a multitude of short stories. She continued to write right up until the year of her death, in April of 1942. And even today, millions of people still read and love her writing every day.
Lola, 15, Wisconsin is one of many readers (myself included) who are hooked by the Anne series right from the start:
"I've only read most of the first book, but I read enough to fall in love with Anne. I loved how independent she was, and how she expressed her opinions so openly, in a time where girls were taught to hold their tongues.
I also loved Lucy's style of writing, and how she made such vivid pictures in your mind, and how she made Anne seem like a real person and not just a character in a book. I think I'll have to read the rest of the Anne books.
I think that Anne is a very spirited young girl, and that she can be a big inspiration to today's girls/young women - an inspiration to express your opinions and say what you believe, even if people tell you no to.
And I think that Lucy's writing, while old-fashioned, is sort of like Shakespeare, or Agatha Christie: You can enjoy it today, even though the language is a bit outdated."
As someone who's been a fan of L. M. Montgomery's work for many years, I must second Lola's endorsement of these books! After reading the Anne series for the first time, I went on to enter a phase of a year or so of obsession in which I read every piece of her writing I could find (many of them multiple times over!), including numerous collections of short stories. My personal L. M. Montgomery favorites (aside from the Anne series) include Pat of Silver Bush, Emily of New Moon (of course!), and one of her more adult-oriented novels, A Tangled Web. I could say many things about what I love about L. M. Montgomery's writing, but to keep it brief, I've always admired her ability to take such true-to-life events (many based on or inspired by her own experiences) and, using the magic of her words, to make them so compelling to so many different readers. I also love the characterization—even though it's set in a different time and a different place than anything I know firsthand, her books also seem to have a timeless quality to them in some ways (no doubt part of the reason for their continued fame, so long after they were originally written), and this is no more evident than in the array of characters. And many of L. M. Montgomery's heroines, including Anne herself, are quite inspirational in their own right as characters as well, and can be viewed as wonderful models of developing in individual identity, of personal expression, and of staying true to yourself.
Anne of Green Gables has become so popular over the century and more since its original publication that the story has been adapted into a number of different formats, including TV series, graphic novel, and movie. While I've only read the books in their original form of novels, Anna, 12, Oregon, says "I liked that she was portrayed as just a girl with a strong voice. I am reading the graphic novel right now and I am loving it! It did such a good job informing without being boring."
Anna also likes the character of Anne Shirley: "She is such a fun person. I would definitely want to be friends with her. I like that the story is just about everyday life with an important message behind it."
Of course, L. M. Montgomery isn't the only author to have delved into the world of creative, interesting, and empowering stories with girls as the main characters. Anna likes The Devil's Arithmetic, by Jane Yolen, a book that "represents the voice of a Jewish girl learning about her past through time-travel" and, according to Anna, is "informative with a FANTASTIC story and story twist." Lola has a couple of recommendations: "I really enjoy the Maximum Ride books, by James Patterson. I love how Max, Nudge, and Angel are just as strong as Fang, Iggy, and Gazzy, and I love how they can often outsmart the villains better than the boys can. Plus - Max is just plain awesome! I also enjoy The Hunger Games books, even though Katniss isn't my favorite. I really like how Katniss is so strong and brave, and how Prim and Rue can always keep an optimistic spirit, even when things get tough." And Sopha recommends the Mother-Daughter Book Club series, written by Heather Vogel Frederick.
We at New Moon Girls always want to know about your favorite books, especially the ones with interesting and diverse girl characters—so look for an invitation in the January/February 2018 issue of NMG magazine to share your own recommendations!
Through the countless readers who discover the world of Anne Shirley and her other works of writing, L. M. Montgomery has left her mark in the world through her creativity, her voice as an author, and, perhaps above all else, through her feisty, likeable, imaginative, emotional, and unique heroines. Today (November 30, 2017) marks her 143rd birthday. In honor of the occasion, whether or not you had a chance to respond to the poll, please share your own thoughts on Anne and L. M. Montgomery's other writing in the comment section below! Have you read anything by her? (Or encountered a movie, graphic novel, play, or other medium based on her ideas.) If so, what were your reactions? What did you like? Anything you weren't so fond of? And what do you think of L. M. Montgomery herself, from what you know of her as a person and author? Feel free to chime in with whatever comes to mind for you!
And here's wishing a happy 143rd birthday to Lucy Maud Montgomery!!