We used to have this perfectly dreadful shaped board book adaptation of Sleeping Beauty. When I say perfectly dreadful, I mean that I considered taking it to the freshman composition class I used to teach as an example of bad writing. The thing that bothered me every time I read it (by impassioned request only!) is that part of it was written in passive voice. I actually looked for the book to share in this post, but I must’ve gotten rid of it in a fit of aggravation (and good riddance!) For someone who almost never gets rid of a book, this is big. My point here is that sometimes, adaptations can be baaaaaaaaaad. Not only do they often leave out interesting and pertinent facts, but very often the writing itself is so bland and colorless that it could never possibly inspire a child to want to read the original (or even a better adaptation).
I have been holding Anne of Green Gables closely, not sure when the optimal time will be to read it aloud to my girls. I didn’t discover it until I was eleven or twelve, and I think that’s just about right. However, I do not think I can hold the girls off from it for that long. For one thing, there’s mine and Steady Eddie’s P.E. I. honeymoon, for which we have a chunky scrapbook just sitting on a shelf in the living room. Then there are referrals by other members of my family and friends to the book or the movie. Truly, it played such a huge role in my teenage years that no one who knows me well is ignorant of its importance to me. (You can read a little bit about how I came to love L.M. Montgomery’s works here.) Add to all this the fact that we all saw a stage adaptation a few years ago (which Louise doesn’t remember at all but Lulu most definitely does remember!), and what I have on my hands is a conspiracy against my plan to keep my girls ignorant of the joys of Anne until just the right moment. 😉
Well, last week Louise found an adaptation of the beloved classic in the picture books at the library, and I permitted her to bring it home. 😉 We read it immediately after lunch. (When I say immediately, I mean that she was actually disappointed that we didn’t read it when we walked through the door.) Our particular adaptation, the one by M. C. Helldorfer, is one I’ve seen around book blogdom, so I thought at worst it must be okay. And it is-okay. It covers the basic plot of Anne, including her friendship with Diana and the unfortunate schoolroom incident with Gilbert (I believe it’s called “A Tempest in the School Teapot” in the real book). However, and this is a big however, it glosses over so much of what I love about the story–Anne’s verbosity; Marilla’s iron will; Matthew’s shy love; etc. Maybe gloss over is too strong; Helldorfer does a fairly decent job at getting across the idea that Marilla is strict and Matthew loves Anne, but to me, it’s just not the same thing. I even found myself improvising lines and getting into character a bit while I was reading, adding emphasis to words and phrases like the actors and actresses do in the movie. (I realize that the movie might also be considered an adaptation, but if it is, it is a faithful one, with much of the script taken directly from the text.) The one thing that is missing in the Helldorfer adaptation, and for all I know this might have something to do with copyright issues (though I think it’s public domain now, no?), is voice. It might be because I would recognize Anne’s voice anywhere due to my familiarity with the story, but this (any?) adaptation rings hollow without the characters’ actual words, the way the author wrote them. Voice is so important; it’s what makes the characters, and without it an adaptation is like that dull Sleeping Beauty book I threw out–bland, colorless, and tasteless. Blech. Although I might be convinced that good adaptations have some merit for a child who wants to read a story that is too long or complicated for his ability or maturity level, for a read-aloud, I have to say go straight for the original work. I think I might give Anne a go with my girls next January. This adaptation is going back to the library where it belongs.
Today is the wrap-up for the L.M. Montgomery Reading Challenge at Reading to Know. Here’s a listing of four years’ worth of L.M. Montgomery posts here at Hope Is the Word, for those of you who can’t get enough. 🙂
PEI Reminscences, a post in which I share pictures and memories of mine and Steady Eddie’s honeymoon on the Island
L.M. Montgomery Meanderings, a post in which I reminisce about how I became such a fan