DREAMER OF DREAMS
Amy Jo Cooper
Volume 21 Number 4
Anyone reading the Sullivan Films "Road to Avonlea" books is faced with a curious hybrid. These books represent a collection of tales adapted from screenplays in turn adapted from the characters originally created by Lucy Maud Montgomery, in particular, the King family of The Story Girl (L.C. Page, 1911; McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1988). This numbered series is written by a variety of authors and has little to recommend itself as literature. The format, however, is seductive, with a sumptuous colour illustration on each cover taken from the pertinent episode.
In the program itself, the setting and costumes provide a depth of experience not matched by the contrived plots and extreme characterizations. So too with the books. They do not fulfill the promise of the covers, as the authors try to provide in text what the camera illustrates. The descriptive abilities of the writers are either clichéd or lavish beyond the sometime extravagances of Montgomery herself. Characterization is shallow and the gentle cameos of Montgomery's books are transformed into caricatures.
To review these books realistically, however, I feel that one must take into account the issue of accessibility, and, to do these books credit, the series is well known and well loved by a solid readership of children from grades 2 to at least grade 5. These titles were pounced upon by patrons when found in my hands at the library, both by children who are able readers and those who are challenged readers.
As a result, although I have severe reservations regarding their literary value, I would suggest that any library with sufficient funding provide a sampling of these titles. Some of the results are better than others; this suggests a judicious choice of selected titles is in order. Allowing children the autonomy to select their own reading from familiar materials will surely result in repeat and satisfied borrowers.
Recommended with reservations.
Jennifer Johnson is a children's librarian in Ottawa, Ontario.
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