When I first saw Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery on a list of novels to read to middle grade girls, I was skeptical. Maybe because I first read the book as a teenager, I remembered it as more of a romance than a book about a little girl. My daughter loves books with spunky girl protagonists, and rather than reading Pippi Longstocking for the hundreth time (as much as I love Pippi!), we decided to give Anne of Green Gables a try. I was pleasantly surprised at how apt this book was for an 8 year old entering third grade. The romance with Gilbert doesn’t really even begin until the last chapter of this book, and I had forgotten that Anne is only 11 years old when the novel begins. Rather than being too old for my daughter, we found so much good material for discussing friendships, honesty, peer pressure, and the importance of standing up for yourself.
Friendship is really the major theme of this book and goes far beyond the most memorable friendship between Anne and Diana. Anne also encounters girls who are mean and snarky (Josie Pye) and girls who she tries to be friends with and they just don’t get along. She forms friendships with older women who mentor her (her teacher, Miss Stacy, and the pastor’s wife), and, famously, moves from disdain to friendship with Gilbert Blythe. However, the most memorable scene in the book is still the incident where Anne accidentally gives Diana currant wine and Diana becomes drunk. Diana’s mother assumes that Anne switched the drinks on purpose and forbids Diana from seeing her again. Although this scene in the book is still very humorous, it also brought up more serious themes when I read it with my daughter and sparked some great discussion. What does it feel like when a friendship ends, or when you have a misunderstanding with someone? What about when a friend moves away? or when they simply withdraw their friendship? I highly recommend reading this book with young girls who are old enough to sit through a longish novel and still young enough to want to talk with their parents!
Anne of Green Gables is full of scenes with food in them. There is the custard that Anne finds a dead mouse in, Marilla’s famous cherry preserves, and a sunday school picnic where Anne tries ice cream for the first time. I have always wanted to make raspberry cordial so that’s what I’ve tried to recreate here. Just the word “cordial” sounds delicious on the tongue and this brightly colored, fruity drink lives up to it’s name. Most of the cordial recipes I looked for required a complicated routine of cooking fruit, cooling the mixture and straining. Here I’ve adapted a recipe for raspberry lemonade that requires no heat and therefore can be made quickly and is easy for kids to lend a hand. I halved the amount of lemons in the recipe, doubled the raspberries, and cut down on the sugar to allow the natural sweetness of the raspberries to shine. After pounding the fruit together with the sugar (a very fun task for kids), just strain the mixture into a pitcher and add water to taste. The process is very simple and the resulting drink tastes like summer in a glass! As Anne says, “I just love bright red drinks, don’t you? They taste twice as good as any other color.”
Makes 8 to 10 cups
5 lemons, sliced
2 pints fresh raspberries
3/4 cup sugar
4 to 6 cups cold water
- Place the lemon slices, raspberries, and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Set the bowl over paper towels or newspapers as this step is fairly messy; a great outdoor activity! Using a wooden spoon, pound the lemon slices and raspberries for several minutes until all the juice has been extracted and the sugar is mostly dissolved. Make sure to press the lemons thoroughly to get all the good juice out.
- Strain the lemon, raspberry mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a pitcher to remove all the seeds. To make a pitcher of cordial, add 4 to 6 cups of cold water to the raspberry syrup, or make individual glasses by adding about 1/4 cup of raspberry syrup for every 1 cup of water. Serve cold over ice.