I’m pleased to announce the release yesterday of the Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition of Anne of Green Gables, a new edition of L.M. Montgomery’s best-selling novel with a foreword by J. Courtney Sullivan, an introduction and additional contributions by me, and a bonus essay by Montgomery. Although there are innumerable editions of this book currently on the market, most trade editions in North America reprint a version of the text that was modernized in the mid-twentieth century and that Americanizes spelling, updates hyphenation and punctuation, and makes a number of additional small changes to the text. The Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition is one of the few that includes the full text of the original 1908 edition, with fourteen corrections that are listed in the section entitled “A Note on the Text.”
Those of you who follow this site on social media (specifically on Facebook or on Pinterest) have a sense already of how fascinated I’ve become with a phenomenon that has involved not only Montgomery but also any other still-popular author whose work is in the public domain: cheap reprint editions, either in print or in ebook form. Sometimes it seems as though new cheap editions of Montgomery’s books become available on Amazon every day, many of them offering numerous titles for 99 cents, most of them with cover art that is completely random and, as such, entirely unsuitable, with this recent cover of an edition of Rilla of Ingleside as just one example:
In other cases, creators of these cheap ebooks take art from existing editions, which could mislead readers about what edition they are buying. A couple of months ago, one such edition of Rilla of Ingleside appeared with the cover art from the restored and annotated edition that Andrea McKenzie and I edited for Penguin Canada in 2010. Because most of the editions do not identify any creators or publishers and simply have the line “Sold by Amazon Digital Services LLC,” it is impossible for consumers to know who is behind these editions. Thankfully, though, when we reported this edition to Amazon, it was soon taken down all its platforms.
But now a new twist has occurred, evident in the following screen caps taken yesterday:
While it is true that these books are in the public domain and that anyone anywhere can reprint them or make ebook versions of them, these editions are most definitely not Norton Critical Editions or part of the Penguin Twentieth Century Classics series (which is now called Penguin Modern Classics) or the Oxford World’s Classics series. These are all existing covers, although the cover for The Story Girl is actually from one of eight abridgements done for Zonderkids over a decade ago. Although one would have to buy these Kindle editions to assess the extent that they are “annotated,” my sense is that, if these editions were sufficiently annotated for publication by Norton, Penguin, or Oxford, they would not be retailing for $3.73. Not to mention that the editor of a critical or annotated edition is always identified, since it is that editor’s expertise in the subject matter that is of paramount importance.
And then, of course, is this recent ebook, which appears to be an L.M. Montgomery title no one has ever heard of: Bev’s Childhood. It is actually The Story Girl.
So what do you make of this new trend? What should be most important in terms of the book market?
As I reported yesterday, news broke this week that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation had ordered an eight-episode limited series based on L.M. Montgomery’s novel Anne of Green Gables from producer Moira Walley-Beckett, whose past writing credits include the television series Breaking Bad. The news received rather mixed comments, judging by the comments left on various news sites and even on the Facebook page for L.M. Montgomery Online: for some commentators, Sullivan Entertainment’s 1985 miniseries is of such high quality that any attempt to remake it is pointless (for several fans, no one but Megan Follows can ever play Anne), whereas others voiced concern about the decision to hire Walley-Beckett to helm the project, given not only her past writing credits but also the statement that the series would “chart new territory” by depicting “new adventures reflecting timeless issues, including themes of identity, sexism, bullying, prejudice, and trusting one’s self.”
In the midst of this mixed reaction, several additional articles were released in the last few days, emphasizing why a new take on L.M. Montgomery’s 108-year-old novel is not only understandable but absolutely necessary:
As for me, I’m thrilled that a talented writer/producer wants to interpret Montgomery’s best-known novel and ever-appealing protagonist for the twenty-first century, just as I am always fascinated by adaptations of Anne of Green Gables and its sequels for stage and screen, from a 1934 Hollywood “talkie” and Kevin Sullivan’s work to the recent hit play Anne and Gilbert and Breakthrough Entertainment’s upcoming telefilm. Given how meaningful the character Anne Shirley is to so many readers worldwide, surely there is room for a new take on this ever-popular character.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation announced yesterday that it had greenlit a new, eight-episode television series based on Anne of Green Gables. Entitled Anne, the project is expected to go into production this spring for release sometime in 2017. The project will be created and written by Moira Walley-Beckett, who received an Emmy Award for her work as a writer on the television series Breaking Bad and who will serve as executive producer alongside Miranda de Pencier, Alison Owen, and Debra Hayward.
At its heart, ANNE is a coming-of-age story about an outsider who, against all odds and numerous challenges, fights for acceptance, for her place in the world and for love. The drama series centres on a young orphaned girl who, after an abusive childhood spent in orphanages and the homes of strangers, is mistakenly sent to live with an elderly spinster and her aging brother. Over time, 13-year-old Anne will transform their lives and eventually the small town in which they live, with her unique spirit, fierce intellect and brilliant imagination. While the new series will follow a similar storyline to the book that millions of readers around the world know and love, it will also chart new territory. Anne and the rest of the characters in and around Green Gables will experience new adventures reflecting timeless issues, including themes of identity, sexism, bullying, prejudice, and trusting one’s self.
“Kids these days are done with stories where things happen,” said CBC consultant and world’s oldest child psychologist Obadiah Sugarman. “We’ll finally be giving them the stiff Victorian morality that I assume is in vogue. Not to mention, doing a period piece is a great way to make sure white people are adequately represented on television.”
“I can’t wait for yet more Anne,” enthused 22 year-old Alexandra Lewis, who has only been alive for 7 of Anne’s over two dozen adaptations. “Honestly there’s no better use of public funds than promoting the work of a long-dead, already immensely popular author.”
Today, on what would have been L.M. Montgomery’s 141st birthday (she was born on 30 November 1874), I would like to share with you an extract from a journal entry dated exactly 101 years ago, on the occasion of Montgomery’s fortieth birthday:
Once I thought forty must be the end of everything. But it isn’t! I don’t feel any older today than yesterday—when I was only 39! Or the day before yesterday when I was—19! Thank God we don’t feel old. Life is much richer, fuller, happier, more comfortable for me now than it was when I was twenty. I have won the success I resolved to win twenty years ago. It is worth the struggle—but I would not wish to be twenty again with the struggle still before me.
I’m glad, because all this media attention reflects the continued relevance and the persistent quality of Montgomery’s writing, not only as works of literature but also as the basis for an enduring popular culture icon and a set of new Anne texts for stage and screen. I’m looking forward to delving back into the novel Anne of Green Gables next term, when I teach the book in an undergraduate children’s literature course at Wilfrid Laurier University, as an example of a crossover text that continues to appeal to both adults and children.
The website for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation posted earlier today a link to a CBC Radio segment that aired twenty-seven years ago today, on 14 August 1988, on the growing tension between Montgomery’s heirs and the makers of Anne-related commodities on Prince Edward Island—a tension that would lead to the creation of the Anne of Green Gables Licensing Authority (operated jointly by Montgomery’s heirs and by the Province of Prince Edward Island) in 1992.
The article claims that 14 August 1988 marked the eightieth anniversary of the publication of Anne of Green Gables, but this is incorrect: the book was published on 13 June 1908.
Major news has been released concerning Breakthrough Entertainment’s upcoming movie Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. According to a press release dated today, the production will air on Corus Entertainment–owned YTV early in 2016 and will star thirteen-year-old Ella Ballentine as Anne Shirley. More news will be posted here as it becomes available.