This second historical book in the "Anne of Green Gables" series by L.M. Montgomery is published by Sterling Publishing.
Anne of Avonlea is written for kids ages 12 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Anne teaches in her Canadian village of Avonlea, helps create a village improvement society, gets involved in neighbors' problems and assists Marilla (her adoptive mom) in raising young orphan twins — Dora and Davy. Anne struggles against the philosophy of corporal punishment in the classroom, and there are a few romantic subplots. One involves an American student, Paul, whose mother is deceased and father has sent him to live with his grandmother. Anne happens upon Miss Lavendar, the woman originally engaged to Paul's father, and happily sees the couple reunited.
Church, learning Scriptures and daily prayer are a natural part of people's lives. In raising young Davy, Marilla and Anne must answer many questions about religion, the virtue of honesty and how God answers prayers. The book discusses Davy's curious interpretation of a pastor's teaching that God makes, preserves and redeems us. He interprets it to mean that God makes jam. This opens into a discussion of heaven. Anne states that every day in heaven will be better than the one before it. Davy wants more than Sundays and singing hymns in heaven, so Anne says she believes there will be Saturdays, and if he preferred playing a mouth organ to a harp, she supposed God would let him do that.
As a teacher, Anne must learn to control the classroom and guide her students. Mrs. Lynde, an influential, but nosy villager, checks with the children to see if Anne is succeeding as a teacher. She finds Anne is doing well, but develops a favorable opinion once Anne actually disciplines the most unruly child by smacking his hand with the pointer. The students do very well on their exams under Anne's teaching. Marilla is the figure Anne looks to for guidance and wisdom. Davy tries hard to obey Marilla and Anne, but his playful and mischievous behavior tends to get him into trouble. He puts a caterpillar down the back of the best behaved child in church, locks his sister in the shed and lets everyone search for her and puts a toad in Marilla's bed. Davy becomes more Christ-like as he learns from Anne and Marilla.
Other Belief Systems
One of Anne's students reveals that her family has a ghost. Anne and her student Paul enjoy imagining worlds of pixies, rock people and fairies but realize they're not real.
The book mentions a parrot of neighbor Mr. Harrison that is known to swear. In the book itself, the most the parrot does is call Anne a red-headed snippet and to exclaim, "Well bless my soul."
Anne and her friend, Gilbert, write gossip notes in the local paper. One note about a newcomer possibly courting someone leads to a scandal. The man mentioned in the article was married, but estranged. His wife showed up to end any mischief, and they reconcile. There's a chaste romance and wedding of Mr. Irving and Miss Lavendar. Anne blushes when gazing at Gilbert, and the book reveals that Gilbert is striving to be the perfect man for Anne, including being careful to avoid temptation.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- What did Anne Shirley do when she sold her neighbor's cow by mistake?
- Was confessing and offering him her cow and the $20 she earned from the sale enough?
- How did Anne explain to Davy that dishonesty was wrong?
- When have you chosen to be honest about a mistake?
- When have you lied to cover up an action?
- What were the consequences of each?
- What does the Bible say about telling the truth?
- Anne struggles with how she should rule her classroom. The Bible states that God disciplines those he loves (Hebrews 12:6).
What discipline do you think works best and why?
- When did Anne use this kind of discipline and when didn't she?
- Anne and Marilla work hard to understand Davy's actions and discipline him. Often they use the same punishment of sending him to bed without supper.
How do their attempts to communicate with Davy help or hurt?
- What discipline has helped you become a better person?
Note: The classic was first published in 1909.
Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.