Tag Archives: Orphans

Movie Review: Ivan’s Childhood (1962)


Rating: B+/ The ironic thing about the title of Ivan’s Childhood is that the nightmare twelve-year-old Ivan (Kolya Burlyayev) is living out as he works as a scout for the Soviet army during World War II scarcely counts as a childhood at all. Ivan has had to grow up incredibly quickly following the murder of his family by the Nazis, and for all of us whose childhoods weren’t completely fucked up, it’s sometimes hard to remember that some people aren’t allowed a sense of relative safety and security as they come of age. Continue reading Movie Review: Ivan’s Childhood (1962)

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery


Admittedly, I am not supposed to be the target audience for Anne of Green Gables. In fact, I would not have reread it at the age of twenty had my mother not bought the used boxed collection online to read to my sister. I figured, heck, why not; if only for nostalgia’s sake? If I could describe Anne… in one word, it would be ‘quaint’ which is a very good thing, in this case. It helps the reader to remember a simpler, more innocent time through the eyes of a spirited, naïve child.

Marilla and Matthew Cuthburt are grown-up, unmarried siblings living together in the small, gossipy town of Bolingbroke, Novia Scotia who decide to adopt a young boy from an orphan asylum to help them carry out household and farm tasks on their piece of land. Imagine their surprise when Matthew goes to the train station to pick up his adoptive son and comes back instead with a freckly, fiery-haired eleven-year-old girl!

This is Anne Shirley,  who talks constantly and always has her head floating up in the clouds with pleasant daydreams. Anne ingratiates herself in with the Cuthberts and eventually bonds to some extent with the suspicious townspeople, despite the fact that her peppery demeanor allows little room for forgiveness. She can hold grudges like a Sicilian, especially against a certain schoolmate named Gilbert Blythe, who might be Anne’s first crush (not that she’d ever admit it,) and the Cuthbert’s busybody neighbor Miss Rachel Lynde.

The novel, the first a series following the titular ginger, follows the often humorous series of mishaps and ‘scrapes’ Anne befalls on the road to growing up, and her eventual maturation and coming of age. There’s no great drama until near the end, where one lead character dies and a serious disability threatens to limit another’s day-to-day life.

The thing is, I found Anne a bit annoying at the beginning of the book, but I found myself missing the old, chatterbox Anne when she became more quiet and serious, which was quite a strange experience for me. Anne is overall an ideal role model for girls, spunky while still retaining her femininity and promoting a love of reading and childhood flights of fancy.

The relationships in Anne of Green Gables are quite sweet and innocent and although the slow pace and florid vocabulary won’t snatch up reluctant readers, young girls and girls at heart who already love books and reading will enjoy this this trip down memory lane, or will happily devour the series for the first time. The jury is out on whether a boy would pick it up.

Overall,  Anne of Green Gables is not too outdated and is often very funny in a gently wry way (you can tell that Lucy Maud Montgomery was a sophisticated lady with quite a sense of humor.) However, it might be hard to push on new readers in our electronics-obsessed world, as it is low on epic conflict or contemporary-minded shtick.

Favorite Character- Matthew was such a sweet old man. He was terrified of girls and women as a lifelong bachelor lacking in sex appeal but really doted on his adopted daughter in a pure, innocent way. Perhaps he was a little bit on the simple  side but he was a good father to Anne and a hard worker.


The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett


I can’t believe it took me until late into my teens to read this wonderful classic. Mary Lennox, a sour-faced orphan who has been allowed to do anything she likes for her entire life, but has never been loved, arrives at a gloomy British estate to live with distant family. Raised in India, Mary is unused to the cold English weather and the British sensibilities, and finds her life taking a turn for the better. She quickly befriends a Yorkshire lad named Dickon who has a special way with the animals, and solves the mystery of a wailing boy whose cries she can hear from her room at night. And best of all, Mary discovers a seemingly enchanted garden that has been blocked off for years after an unthinkable tragedy.

“The Secret Garden” was published in 1911, and remains a timeless classic more than a century later. This success is no doubt based in it’s inspirational optimism and literary magic, all while being basically grounded in reality. Mary starts out as a brat but is never really a hateable character. She has never known caring or compassion, and without parental devotion, getting what you want on any given day means nothing. Dicken is delightful throughout, and there is really not much development on his part during the book.

‘Invalid’/hypochondriac Colin, Mary’s counterpart in bitterness and lonely angst, is not loved by his brooding, absent father, and he has been told he will be crippled and deformed if he does live to grow up. Colin is a tyrant who kicks and screams and makes all the servants at the manor’s lives a living hell. Mary’s combination of friendship and tough love redeems Colin, and they soon experience psychological transformations at the beckoning of the garden and themselves.

The writing in “The Secret Garden” is beautiful, and makes an ideal read-aloud. It might be a little descriptive for modern kids with short attention spans, and that’s a shame, because it really is a terrific book. Boys who aren’t too self-conscious about reading a ‘girls book’ will find a lot to enjoy here too. The portrayal of two kids pulling themselves out of despair and finding a new future together rings true.

Everyone who cares to read a brilliant piece of fiction should read this book. I am eager to read “The Little Princess” again (the first time I read it I was nine) when I get the chance. “The Secret Garden” belongs in a similar category to the “Harry Potter” books as perennial classics that can be enjoyed by adults and children alike for years to come.