Nov 29, 2011

Akin To Anne

For the most recent update to the 5th Canadian Book Challenge, John at The Book Mine Set asked what our favourite Canadian children's book is. It has taken me 29 days to decide between The Root Cellar (time travel! war! bookish protagonist!) and Akin to Anne. I love them both.

Akin to Anne (CAN, JP, US) by LM Montgomery won out, barely. I was worried that being a short story collection it wasn't really a novel, and that most of the other commenters loved Anne of Green Gables. But it's the book that has had the most impact on my life.

I actually have two copies of this book. One was given to me by my grandparents along with a gold necklace for my 9th birthday. I still remember the feel of the present and the smiles of my grandparents as they looked on sitting at the dining room table in the first house I ever lived in. That was the last birthday I had in that house, and the last one my grandfather was at. He sat across from me and beamed despite the fact that one half of his neck had a baseball-sized protrusion. I thought he had the mumps, but it was a heck of a case of cancer.

That might be why I love this book so much. The hardcover copy they gave me is soft and pink and oh so girly. Not me at all! But it's a gorgeous book and I will have to retrieve it from my parents' basement and put it in my daughter's room to love.

The paperback you see above made it to Japan with me. It has been a constant companion, always there to make me feel happy that I have a family despite the distance, to remind me that friends can make a family too, and that virtue is not only its own reward but also something to smooth communication with even the prickliest of people.

This book is a collection of short stories about orphans and family. Despite the name, Anne Shirley does not make an appearance, although some of her personality traits make it into a few of these characters. These lonely characters find other lonely characters to love and cherish.

I have to warn you though, although this collection is poignant and heartwarming, it borders on twee, which I can imagine might not be everyone's thing. Personally I love a bit of moralizing in my books, and tears shed in joy and sadness are not something I shy from.

In Japan, when we make our thrice-yearly visits to the family grave, I always think of Freda's Adopted Grave, a story about a girl who lives in a town which loves its cemetary. Freda isn't homeless, she lives with someone, but she is lonely and aches for a sense of belonging and someone to truly love. By adopting the grave of a ne'er do well, extending her sense of duty to others to someone no one in the town cares about, she is able to meet someone who will love her.

When I used to work at a DIY store I often encountered grumpy customers- people who were on their fourth trip that day for a project gone wrong, mothers whose toilets were overflowing and had to grab a plunger and rush off to work, and people who just like to treat people badly. Whenever someone was nasty to me I always thought back to Marcella's Reward. This story is about a working poor woman who supports her sick sister by working at a department store and taking guff from what we would call the 1% now. She holds her tongue despite the bad treatment and through that meets a friend of her mother who saves her sister and they make a family.

My favourite of these stories is The Girl Who Drove the Cows. I love the forthright "Anne-ness" of a girl who walks up to another girl and tells her they will be friends. What a great lesson this is! So what if the person says no, you are exactly where you started.

Akin to Anne, a collection of 20 stories of finding family, new or old, is my favourite Canadian children's book.

What's your favourite children's book? Any chance it's Canadian?

This is the 16th book I read for the 5th Canadian Book Challenge.


  1. I have a very special copy of Anne of Green Gables & Anne of Avonlea that my kiwi grandmother gave me. It hasn`t made it to Japan yet but it will, one day! I have not read this though! I will have to look out for it.

    My favourite young adult books are both by Australians {sorry, not Canadian!}- Looking for Alibarndi and Alison.

    I am undecided about favourite children`s book...will get back to you!

  2. My all time favourite children's novel is The Secret Garden. I just love, love, love the story! Probably it is because I was always called contrary like Mary in the story.

    The Horse and His Boy (CS Lewis) would be a close second. I liked it better than The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, mostly because the hero wasn't wimpy like the Pevensies.

    When I came to Japan I think I brought 6 novels with me. I can't remember them all, but I'm quite sure that The Secret Garden and also The Blue Castle (L.M. Montgomery, but for older readers) were two of them...

  3. I grew up loving Anne of Green Gables and read all in the series, but have never heard of Akin to Anne. Even though Anne Shirley isn't in it, I'm going to have to give it a read :-)

  4. Lulu, I'm afraid I've never heard of either of those, but looking them up I see why you like them.

    Helen, I love The Horse and His Boy too, so so much. My favourite of the 7 is actually The Magician's Nephew though. Ive never heard of The Blue Castle, I'll have to look that one up too!

    Sara Louise, thanks for commenting! Please do find Akin to Anne, it's great!

  5. I can't choose a favourite...I couldn't for John either...there are so many I love for different reasons. That said, LM Montgomery's many works are definitely in my "Favourites" list :) I love The Blue Castle as well -- do find yourself a copy, it is a wonderful romantic adult tale.

    As for Narnia, The Magician's Nephew is my favourite of that series by far :)

  6. I just love, love, love the story! Probably it is because I was always called contrary like Mary in the story.

    British Food


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