Rilla of Ingleside by L. M. Montgomery

Rilla of Ingleside, by Lucy Maud Montgomery, was first published in 1921. It is the sequel to Rainbow Valley.

Anne’s children were almost grown up, except for pretty, high-spirited Rilla. No one could resist her bright hazel eyes and dazzling smile. Rilla, almost fifteen, can’t think any further ahead than going to her very first dance at the Four Winds lighthouse and getting her first kiss from handsome Kenneth Ford. But undreamed-of challenges await the irrepressible Rilla when the world of Ingleside becomes endangered by a far-off war. Her brothers go off to fight, and Rilla brings home an orphaned newborn in a soup tureen. She is swept into a drama that tests her courage and leaves her changed forever.

Rating: 2/5

Rilla of Ingleside would be a wonderful tale of the effect of World War I on families if it wasn’t for its one major flaw, which is that it’s boring. The familiar Montgomery shenanigans are swept away for pages-long conversations and depictions of battles in WWI, and while some small amount of ridiculous antics are present, the mood of this book is much more gloomy and dark than previous Anne books. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the grave tone fits the setting, but the book seemed unnecessarily long and dragged on and on.

Also, I felt that Rilla and Kenneth’s relationship wasn’t nearly as well developed as, say, Anne and Gilbert’s, or even Mr. Meredith’s and Rosemary’s from the last book. It’s a background piece, really, and perhaps that’s how Montgomery meant it, but it did seem to me to fall a little flat. I do appreciate Rilla’s character growth throughout the book, however, and how she matured as she grew up and as the war required her to do things that she would not normally have had to do.

I applaud Montgomery for the more serious nature of the book, as befitting of the time period, but she definitely does “silly nonsense” better, as Rilla of Ingleside seemed overly long, spent too much time dwelling on Susan Baker recapping battles of the war (spent too much time with Susan in general, actually), and its little intersperses of humor were sporadic and jagged. I do appreciate that Shirley, at least, got a little more limelight and wasn’t treated as a nonexistent character—a step up from my complaints from the previous two books!

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Warnings: Character death.

Genre: Historical Fiction, Children’s

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Rainbow Valley by L. M. Montgomery

Rainbow Valley, by Lucy Maud Montgomery, was first published in 1919. It is the sequel to Anne of Ingleside.

Anne Shirley is grown up, has married her beloved Gilbert and now is the mother of six mischievous children. These boys and girls discover a special place all their own, but they never dream of what will happen when the strangest family moves into an old nearby mansion. The Meredith clan is two boys and two girls, with minister father but no mother — and a runaway girl named Mary Vance. Soon the Meredith kids join Anne’s children in their private hideout to carry out their plans to save Mary from the orphanage, to help the lonely minister find happiness, and to keep a pet rooster from the soup pot. There’s always an adventure brewing in the sun-dappled world of Rainbow Valley.

Rating: 3/5

In my review of Anne of Ingleside, I mentioned how I preferred Rainbow Valley, but now having read the latter, I actually think the former is my favorite of the “Anne’s children” books—unless Rilla of Ingleside takes that honor, of course. Rainbow Valley is good, but the Meredith children are no replacement for the Blythe family. And while I do get some guilty pleasure out of pining romances, Mr. Meredith and Rosemary’s drags on a little too long. There’s also some contrived nonsense sitting in the way, of course, as Montgomery is fond of the dramatic romances.

There are some good things about the novel, of course—the build-up to World War I is patently obvious and already Montgomery foreshadows just how much this will shake up the Blythe family. This book was written before Rilla of Ingleside, but I think Montgomery had certain things in mind even during this book because the foreshadowing and telegraphing are quite strong. In addition, there were some conversations about God and theology that had me laughing out loud. Montgomery certainly has a way with phrasing things exactly how children would phrase them, which is precisely why the original Anne of Green Gables is so beloved.

However, Rainbow Valley still can’t hold a candle to Anne, and I think it’s because Montgomery is trying too hard to recapture the charm of the first book. Also, while reading, I had this nagging feeling that Anne is not actually the best mother to her children. Of course, with Montgomery’s focus on the children, and especially the Meredith children, it could be that we just don’t see enough of Anne for me to seriously make that argument. And Montgomery doesn’t help Anne out either, because once again Shirley is mentioned briefly at the beginning of the novel and then vanishes, never to be mentioned again—not by Anne nor by the narrator, who lists all the Blythe children and what they’re doing, except for Shirley. Like I did in Anne of Ingleside, I ask: why bother giving Anne this child if he’s not even going to be mentioned? It really doesn’t do any favors to how Anne looks as a mother. But perhaps I’m obsessing too much.

Rainbow Valley is good, but there are one too many shenanigans featuring the Meredith children and the book runs out of steam about 3/4s of the way through as a result. Also, I’m still not as fond of the married-with-children-Anne, due to the fact that her glib, laughing nature makes her seem like a shockingly airheaded and uncaring mother, arguably.

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Historical Fiction, Children’s

“Well, you kids have gone and done it now,” was Mary’s greeting, as she joined them in the Valley. Miss Cornelia was up at Ingleside, holding agonized conclave with Anne and Susan, and Mary hoped that the session might be a long one, for it was all of two weeks since she had been allowed to revel with her chums in the dear valley of rainbows.

“Done what?” demanded everybody but Walter, who was day-dreaming as usual.

“It’s you manse young ones, I mean,” said Mary. “It was just awful of you. I wouldn’t have done such a thing for the world, and I weren’t brought up in a manse— weren’t brought up ANYWHERE— just COME up.”

“What have WE done?” asked Faith blankly.

“Well, you kids have gone and done it now,” was Mary’s greeting, as she joined them in the Valley. Miss Cornelia was up at Ingleside, holding agonized conclave with Anne and Susan, and Mary hoped that the session might be a long one, for it was all of two weeks since she had been allowed to revel with her chums in the dear valley of rainbows. “Done what?” demanded everybody but Walter, who was day-dreaming as usual. “It’s you manse young ones, I mean,” said Mary. “It was just awful of you.   I   wouldn’t have done such a thing for the world, and   I   weren’t brought up in a manse— weren’t brought up ANYWHERE— just COME up.”

“What have WE done?” asked Faith blankly.

“Done! You’d BETTER ask! The talk is something terrible. I expect it’s ruined your father in this congregation. He’ll never be able to live it down, poor man! Everybody blames him for it, and that isn’t fair. But nothing IS fair in this world. You ought to be ashamed of yourselves.”

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Anne of Ingleside by L. M. Montgomery

Anne of Ingleside, by Lucy Maud Montgomery, was first published in 1939. It is the sequel to Anne’s House of Dreams.

Anne is the mother of five, with never a dull moment in her lively home. And now with a new baby on the way and insufferable Aunt Mary visiting – and wearing out her welcome – Anne’s life is full to bursting. Still, Mrs Doctor can’t think of any place she’d rather be than her own beloved Ingleside. Until the day she begins to worry that her adored Gilbert doesn’t love her anymore. How could that be? She may be a little older, but she’s still the same irrepressible, irreplaceable redhead – the wonderful Anne of Green Gables, all grown up… She’s ready to make her cherished husband fall in love with her all over again!

Rating: 4/5

Anne of Ingleside is another “fill in the gaps” Anne story. It’s also technically the last Anne story, as it was published last, after Anne of Windy Poplars. Since it was published after Rainbow Valley and Rilla of Ingleside (the books that chronologically come after Ingleside), it actually hints at—to be honest, more like downright spoils—events that occur in those books, most noticeably what happens to Walter in Rilla of Ingleside.

As a “fill in the gaps” book, Ingleside is much, much better than Windy Poplars. We don’t get much of the familiar Anne except at beginning and end, but her children are just as ridiculous and loveable as she was in Anne of Green Gables, so they’re an almost suitable replacement for our beloved Anne Shirley, who becomes “mother” Anne for the rest of the series.

Of the “children” novels, I think I like Rainbow Valley best, but Ingleside has lots of fun shenanigans, some heartbreaking moments such as Ronny and his dog (which made me tear up) and some slightly over-the-top but enjoyable nonsense such as Anne becoming worried that Gilbert doesn’t love her anymore.

My main quibble with this book (and with Montgomery’s portrayal of Anne’s children in general) is that, while Montgomery is quite deft at giving each child his/her own personality and story, she completely leaves one of them by the wayside to the point where I wonder why even have him in the novels at all. I’m talking, of course, about Shirley, who is mentioned briefly at the beginning and almost never mentioned again. Each child of Anne’s gets his own narrative (or even two!) in Ingleside, except for Shirley. Each child gets his own thoughts interjected into the overall narrative, except for Shirley. It makes Anne seem the slightest bit neglectful of one of her own children, and Montgomery’s possible explanation for why Shirley barely makes an appearance only makes it worse.

Ingleside serves its purpose well: as a transition from the series being focused on Anne to the series being focused on her children. It blends both Anne-related things and children-related things neatly together, paving the way for the children-centric Rainbow Valley and the Rilla-centric Rilla of Ingleside. My only complaint is that Shirley is neglected, and as a result, a completely unnecessary character.

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Historical Fiction, Children’s

“Susan! What has become of Gog and Magog? Oh…they haven’t broken, have they?”

“No, no, Mrs. Dr. dear,” exclaimed Susan, turning a deep brick-red from shame and dashing out of the room. She returned shortly with the two china dogs which always presided at the hearth of Ingleside. “I do not see how I could have forgotten to put them back before you came. You see, Mrs. Dr. dear, Mrs. Charles Day from Charlottetown called here the day after you left…and you know how very precise and proper she is. Walter thought he ought to entertain her and he started in by pointing out the dogs to her. ‘This one is God and this is My God,’ he said, poor innocent child.”

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Anne’s House of Dreams by L. M. Montgomery

Anne’s House of Dreams, by Lucy Maud Montgomery, was first published in 1917. It is the sequel to Anne of Windy Poplars.

Anne’s own true love, Gilbert Blythe, is finally a doctor, and in the sunshine of the old orchard, among their dearest friends, they are about to speak their vows. Soon the happy couple will be bound for a new life together and their own dream house, on the misty purple shores of Four Winds Harbor. A new life means fresh problems to solve, fresh surprises. Anne and Gilbert will make new friends and meet their neighbors: Captain Jim, the lighthouse attendant, with his sad stories of the sea; Miss Cornelia Bryant, the lady who speaks from the heart — and speaks her mind; and the tragically beautiful Leslie Moore, into whose dark life Anne shines a brilliant light.

Rating: 3/5

Anne’s House of Dreams makes up in some ways for the forgettable, unnecessary Anne of Windy Poplars that came before (and yet after) it, but still struggles with what I’m going to term “Montgomery sound-byte-ism,” which is the tendency of Montgomery to have chapters completely dedicated to one character’s quirky stories. Now, if you like those quirky stories, then you’ll have no problems with this. I, however, tend to think that they get very tedious, very quickly. I ended up skimming most of the parts where Miss Cornelia kept going on and on about one thing or another. If that is someone’s favorite aspect of Montgomery’s stories, then I apologize—but it’s not mine.

Montgomery really went all out in terms of description for House of Dreams, something I don’t remember her doing in the previous books (but I could merely be forgetting).  I do know that description in the earlier books mostly came through Anne’s eyes and mouth as she told us what she saw or described how she saw it. However, in House of Dreams, while we may be “seeing” through Anne’s eyes in terms of her being the main character, Montgomery is the one describing things like the sea and the house, and quite beautifully at times.

House of Dreams is also the first Anne book to have a major tragedy. In Green Gables and Avonlea, there is a death, but Joy’s death in House of Dreams is even more heart wrenching. That, coupled with the overall tragedy and gloom of Leslie’s backstory, makes House of Dreams one of the “darkest” Anne novels so far, if not the darkest. And to be honest, I like that adult-Anne’s world in House of Dreams is not as full of rainbows and sunshine as child-Anne’s world was in Green Gables. Plus, some of the theological questions that arise in this book are spot-on and are maybe even better explained through the use of a story that just stating it flat out (especially when trying to explain such things to children).

Anne’s House of Dreams, while not holding a candle to the first three books, is an improvement over the regrettable Windy Poplars, and its inclusion of more mature story elements makes it more nuanced than even the books that came before it. It’s too bad “Montgomery sound-byte-ism” made the whole thing a little tedious.

Recommended Age Range: 10+ (and lower!)

Warnings: None.

Genre: Historical Fiction, Children’s

“Let’s introduce ourselves,” she said, with the smile that had never yet failed to win confidence and friendliness. “I am Mrs. Blythe—and I live in that little white house up the harbor shore.”

“Yes, I know,” said the girl. “I am Leslie Moore—Mrs. Dick Moore,” she added stiffly.

Anne was silent for a moment from sheer amazement. It had not occurred to her that this girl was married—there seemed nothing of the wife about her. And that she should be the neighbor whom Anne had pictured as a commonplace Four Winds housewife! Anne could not quickly adjust her mental focus to this astonishing change.

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Anne of Windy Poplars by L. M. Montgomery

Anne of Windy Poplars, by Lucy Maud Montgomery, was first published in 1936. It is the sequel to Anne of the Island.

Anne Shirley has left Redmond College behind to begin a new job and a new chapter of her life away from Green Gables. Now she faces a new challenge: the Pringles. They’re known as the royal family of Summerside – and they quickly let Anne know she is not the person they had wanted as principal of Summerside High School. But as she settles into the cozy tower room at Windy Poplars, Anne finds she has great allies in the widows Aunt Kate and Aunt Chatty – and in their irrepressible housekeeper, Rebecca Dew. As Anne learns Summerside’s strangest secrets, winning the support of the prickly Pringles becomes only the first of her triumphs.

Rating: 2/5

Anne of Windy Poplars is definitely one of my least favorite Anne books. I think I like it even less than Anne of Avonlea. What I find most interesting is that Anne of the Island was published in 1915, and Anne’s House of Dreams, which is the sequel to Windy Poplars, was published in 1917, but Windy Poplars was published in 1936. Montgomery actually went back and filled in the three-year gap between Island and House of Dreams (probably due to popular demand) but it highlights that Windy Poplars is an entirely unnecessary book.

Absolutely nothing happens in Windy Poplars that is important to the rest of the series. Almost every single chapter is its own separate story. I’ll say one thing, Montgomery is good at “sound bytes,” at crafting little stories that are intriguing and funny and ridiculous all at the same time. Do the romantic troubles and obstacles get tiring after a while? Yes. But they’re at least always interesting, even when they start wearing thin by the third year. However, the overall “none of this matters” atmosphere of the book is incredibly telling and really shouts “filler book” for all to hear.

It also shows a side of Anne that I’m not really sure I like—the “this is a challenge but I shall strive forward with fortitude because I’m imaginative and dreamy and win over everyone eventually” side of her. It’s cute in Anne of Green Gables, but the Anne of Anne of the Island managed to grow past the worst of that stage, combining imagination with grown-up maturity and wisdom. Yet Anne of Windy Poplars tends to regress at times, and yes, I know, Anne is beloved mostly because of her winsome imagination, but I can’t help it—I like sensible, “I’m still imaginative but I’m got my head out of the clouds” Anne better. Luckily, she starts to come back in House of Dreams, which is more “sound bytes” but strung together with an actual plot rather than an “I have to waste three years so let’s string together a bunch of stories” plot.

Recommended Age Range: 10+ (and lower!)

Warnings: None.

Genre: Historical Fiction, Children’s

Why didn’t Lennox Carter talk? If he would, she, Anne, could talk, too, and perhaps Trix and Pringle would escape from the spell that bound them and some kind of conversation would be possible. But he simply sat there and ate. Perhaps he thought it was really the best thing to do…perhaps he was afraid of saying something that would still further enrage the evidently already enraged parent of his lady.

“Will you please start the pickles, Miss Shirley?” said Mrs. Taylor faintly.

Something wicked stirred in Anne. She started the pickles…and something else. Without letting herself stop to think she bent forward, her great, gray-green eyes glimmering limpidly, and said gently,

“Perhaps you would be surprised to hear, Dr. Carter, that Mr. Taylor went deaf very suddenly last week?”

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Anne of the Island by L. M. Montgomery

Anne of the Island, by Lucy Maud Montgomery, was first published in 1915. For those interested, I read the 1970 Grosset & Dunlapp edition. It is the sequel to Anne of Avonlea.

New adventures lie ahead as Anne Shirley packs her bags, waves good-bye to childhood, and heads for Redmond College. With old friend Prissy Grant waiting in the bustling city of Kingsport and frivolous new pal Philippa Gordon at her side, Anne tucks her memories of rural Avonlea away and discovers life on her own terms, filled with surprises…including a marriage proposal from the worst fellow imaginable, the sale of her very first story, and a tragedy that teaches her a painful lesson. But tears turn to laughter when Anne and her friends move into an old cottage and an ornery black cat steals her heart. Little does Anne know that handsome Gilbert Blythe wants to win her heart, too. Suddenly Anne must decide if she’s ready for love…

Rating: 5/5

I love Anne of Green Gables for what it is, but I resonate with Anne in Anne of the Island: with her college goals, her confusion over her feelings, her feelings of loneliness and isolation as her friends fall in love and get married and move on in life, and her stick-to-itiveness. Anne of Anne of the Island is so much more relatable and sympathetic to me than the growing-up Anne of Anne of Green Gables.

I do think Anne of Green Gables is much more iconic, but Anne of the Island is probably my favorite of the series. Anne’s relatability is one reason. Some might think the romance aspect is a little contrived or goes on for too long, but I find it rings true for the most part. And the message about how doing something because it’s your idea of what it should be like or it’s how you imagined it to be is an important one. Anne still gets carried away with her imagination, but this time it’s disguised as something more “grown up”, as it were—romance.

For all my good things to say about it, I do think one or two chapters were unnecessary. The part where Anne goes off to teach, the random interlude with Mrs. Skinner and the romantic interlude with Janet and John seemed unnecessary to me and dragged the book on a teensy bit too long. But the parts that came after that were wonderful, so perhaps I can forgive Anne of the Island for not being entirely perfect.

Recommended Age Range: 10+ (and lower!)

Warnings: None.

Genre: Historical Fiction, Children’s

“Do you like Billy?” asked Jane bluntly.

“Why—why—yes, I like him of course,” gasped Anne, wondering if she were telling the literal truth. Certainly she did not dislike Billy. But could the indifferent tolerance with which she regarded him when he happened to be in her range of vision, be considered positive enough for liking? What was Jane trying to elucidate?

“Would you like him for a husband?” asked Jane calmly.

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Anne of Avonlea by L. M. Montgomery

Anne of Avonlea, by Lucy Maud Montgomery, was first published in 1909. For those interested, I read the 2014 Aladdin edition. It is the sequel to Anne of Green Gables.

It’s been five years since Anne Shirley came to the town of Avonlea, and while she feels (a little) more grown up, she’s still the same skinny, redheaded orphan Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert took in. After putting her dream of attending Redmond College on hold so she can help Marilla with the farm, Anne doubts she has many adventures ahead of her. But even in plain old Avonlea her life is anything but ordinary. Anne takes over the local school and is determined to be a beloved teacher, but that’s hard when she has students like the forever bad-tempered Anthony Pye—who is just as determined to be a problem. Anne’s former enemy, Gilbert Blythe, starts to give her an awful lot of attention, while her best friend, Diana, seems to be growing up a little more quickly than she is. Anne decides to recruit Gilbert and Diana, as well as her old school friends, to start the Avonlea Village Improvement Society, which—in true Anne fashion—sometimes ends up doing more harm than good. Throw in rambunctious orphan twins Davy and Dora, a foul-mouthed parrot, and a case of mistaken identity involving a cow, and Anne definitely gets more excitement than she thought she would staying in Avonlea.

Rating: 3/5

Anne of Avonlea is probably one of my least favorite Anne books, if only because I don’t find it entirely necessary and there’s not much of a plot. As with Anne of Windy Poplars (another least favorite Anne book), Anne of Avonlea doesn’t really do all that much to advance the characters in anything but age. It introduces some new characters—Dora and Davy and possibly some others that show up later—and gives Anne a reason for going to Redmond, but other than that, it’s easy enough to just find out the important bits and skip the book completely.

The book is basically about Anne’s adventures as a schoolteacher and her desires to “improve” everyone in Avonlea. It reminds me a little bit of Emma by Jane Austen, actually, but with less matchmaking and more general meddling and improvement. There’s some important stuff in regards to Marilla taking Davy and Dora under her wing, and Diana’s engagement to Fred Wright, but other than that, nothing really important happens beyond seeing a glimpse of Gilbert’s feelings for Anne. It’s a charming book, but not nearly as charming as Anne of Green Gables.

I do consider Anne of Avonlea one of the weakest books in the series, and I’m eager now to reread Anne of Windy Poplars to see which book I think is better. The problem with Avonlea is that nothing much happens in terms of development and it has too many “slices-of-life” without the joy of watching Anne grow up and learn from her mistakes. Also, I found the comparison between Davy and Dora irritating because I’m not a fan of Davy and I don’t like how Montgomery describes Dora to basically force the reader into liking Davy more.

Recommended Age Range: 10+ (and lower!)

Warnings: None.

Genre: Historical Fiction, Children’s

“I am Mrs. Donnell…Mrs. H. B. Donnell,” announced this vision, “and I have come in to see you about something Clarice Almira told me when she came home to dinner today. It annoyed me excessively.”

“I’m sorry,” faltered Anne, vainly trying to recollect any incident of the morning connected with the Donnell children.

“Clarice Almira told me that you pronounced our name Donnell. Now, Miss Shirley, the correct pronunciation of our name is Donnell…accent on the last syllable. I hope you’ll remember this in future.”

“I’ll try to, gasped Anne, choking back a wild desire to laugh.

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Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

Anne of Green Gables, by Lucy Maud Montgomery, was first published in 1908. For those interested, I read the 2004 Sterling Publishing edition.

Anne of Green Gables introduces Anne Shirley, the outspoken, impish, and fiercely independent girl who has been an endless source of fascination for millions of readers, young and old. We first meet Anne at age eleven, an imaginative, fiery, red-headed child sent by mistake from the orphanage to Mathew Cuthbert and his sister, Marilla. The Cuthberts, who had requested a boy to help with the work around the farm, were not at all pleased by this “freckled witch” of a child, with her constant chatter, outlandish ideas, and outspoken ways. But soon her indomitable spirit, her bright intelligence, and her high-spirited idealism win over Matthew and Marilla, even as these same traits lead Anne into mishap after mishap. Joining Anne in her exploits are her best friend, the beautiful and bookish Diana Barry; her nemesis, Gilbert Blythe, who insults her “Carrot” tresses on the first day of school; and the other colorful and quirky residents of the remote village of Avonlea on Prince Edward Island in Canada.

Rating: 5/5

I have mixed opinions about Montgomery’s work in general, but I love, love, love Anne of Green Gables. As a child, it was my go-to book to get at the library if I didn’t know what else to read. I fondly remember the raspberry cordial, the lost amethyst broach, and, of course, the “carrots” incident. And on this reread, there were some things in the book that I had forgotten, such as the large timespan of the novel (Anne is 11 when the book starts and 16 when it finishes) and the Queens chapters.

I don’t know why reading about a fictional character’s life growing up in early 1900s Canada is so endearing and timeless, but Montgomery has written a classic here. The best part is that the book is funny. Montgomery both praises and chides Anne for her imagination, and reminds us all the way imagination can shape someone’s life—and what a benefit it can be to use your imagination properly.

Anne of Green Gables is much longer than I remember it being, yet it never drags and never stops being anything but charming. It’s a sophisticated book for a child to read, depending on their reading level, but it’s one that should absolutely be read for its look at imagination alone. And if you want to visualize it on the screen, I highly recommend the 1985 film starring Megan Fellows as Anne.

Recommended Age Range: 10+ (and lower!)

Warnings: None.

Genre: Historical Fiction, Children’s

“I shall never forgive Gilbert Blythe,” said Anne firmly. “And Mr. Phillips spelled my name without an e, too. The iron has entered my soul, Diana.”

Diana hadn’t the least idea what Anne meant but she understood it was something terrible.

“You mustn’t mind Gilbert making fun of your hair,” she said soothingly. “Why, he makes fun of all the girls. He laughs at mine because it’s so black. He’s called me a crow a dozen times; and I never heard him apologize for anything before, either.”

“There’s a great deal of difference between being called a crow and being called carrots,” said Anne with dignity. “Gilbert Blythe has hurt my feelings excruciatingly, Diana.”

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