It’s both a wonderful and frightening thing to reread a book you loved as a child. It’s been ten years since I read Anne of Green Gables. It was one of my most favorite books of all when I was entering my teens but I’ve put off rereading it because I was afraid I’d find I didn’t like it anymore, or that it no longer holds the magic for me as it did when I was a child.
For a long time I felt cheated somehow, like the stories I loved so much as a child had lied to me about the world. I still loved Anne but had this nagging sensation that her optimism was nothing more than glorified naivete. But rereading the book I found the opposite to be true. Anne was an orphan, before she came to Green Gables–/all/ she knew was adversity and she continues to face harsh realities even in her new life such as estrangement from her bosom friend and the death of someone she dearly loved.
It was /because/ of the world’s brokenness that she turned to imagination. She had the miraculous gift of finding beauty everywhere, even in the darkest of places. As an adult, I appreciate that far more than I did as a child because I now understand how dark the darkness really is. At 11, even being an orphan sounded romantic. At 21, I hear all the things Anne /doesn’t/ say when she describes her life as an orphan. I now can sympathize with and smile in a different way at Anne’s lament, “It’s all very well to read about sorrows and imagine yourself living through them heroically, but it’s not so nice when you really come to have them, is it?”
Contrary to my fears, I find I love the book more than ever now. I’m not the same person as when I read Anne of Green Gables the first time. It’s so strange and wonderful at the same time to be able to reread the book and find both my 11 year old and 21 year old self between the pages. Finding Anne grown up and changed at the book’s end was painful to relive because I felt more keenly the pain of change in my own life in the ten years since I first fell in love with Anne, yet that makes the book’s hope-filled ending all the more dear to me now:
“Anne’s horizons had closed in since the night she had sat there after coming home from Queen’s; but if the path set before her feet was to be narrow she knew that flowers of quiet happiness would bloom along it. The joy of sincere work and worthy aspiration and congenial friendship were to be hers; nothing could rob her of her birthright of fancy or her ideal world of dreams. And there was always the bend in the road!
“God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world,'” whispered Anne softly.”
“I am looking for friends. What does that mean — tame?”
“It is an act too often neglected,” said the fox. “It means to establish ties.”
“To establish ties?”
“Just that,” said the fox. “To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world….
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
(The Little Prince did not much charm me the first read-through, I must admit. The beginning bored me and I had a hard time grasping what the point of it all was. It struck me as a deeply cynical book–always disparaging of “grown-ups” and their ways. But when I made a second pass through the book–a skim read, to jot down my favorite quotes–the book worked its quiet magic on me. This quote thrills me.)
Last fall, I had the wonderful privilege of teaching a literature appreciation class to 7 students between the ages of 4 and 13. Over seven weeks they memorized the poem “Daybreak” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and become familiar with seven of Aesop’s Fables. At the end of the course, I hosted a tea party for all my classes, and my students had the opportunity to show their parents what they had learned. They each recited their favorite Aesop Fables and quoted the poem together. Some of my students even dressed up in full costume for their “speeches.” We all had a blast.
“Well,” said the boy, “in my family everyone is born in the air, with his head at exactly the height it’s going to be when he’s an adult, and then we all grow toward the ground. When we’re fully grown up or, as you can see, grown down, our feet finally touch. Of course, there are a few of us whose feet never reach the ground no matter how old we get, but I suppose it’s the same in every family.” …….
“You certainly must be very old to have reached the ground already.”
“Oh no,” said Milo, seriously. “In my family we all start on the ground and grow up, and we never know how far until we actually get there.”
“What a silly system.” The boy laughed. “Then your head keeps changing its height and you always see things in a different way? Why, when you’re fifteen, things won’t look at all the way they did when you were ten, and at twenty everything will change again.”
“I suppose so,” replied Milo, for he had never really thought about the matter.” The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, pg. 104-105
(My Currently Reading over the Christmas and New Years holidays)
Want to see more fun quotes from The Phantom Tollbooth? You can find more here: http://ashleyandstuart.blogspot.com/2011/11/phantom-tollbooth-quotes.html?m=1