I'm a lively, talkative - no, loquacious - young girl with a great imagination. I have a tendency to get into "scrapes," but I feel tremendous remorse about it. I love words and poetry. I'm a wonderful, loyal, friend. I'm not conventionally attractive but people find my looks compelling, particularly my unusual eyes. I was taken in by two adult siblings, one of whom is (seemingly) firm and nearly heartless, one of whom is softer but lacks the spine to stand up to the former very often.
Which famous fictional character am I? If you said Anne Shirley, otherwise known as Anne of Green Gables, you'd be right. If you said Rebecca Rowena Randall, aka Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, you'd also be right.
Why hasn't Rebecca had the same staying power as Anne? Anne is beloved, even something of a cult figure. Rebecca is known, but not read nearly as much these days. Even the 100th anniversary edition of Rebecca, published in 2003, is already out of print.
I think the reason is the language. Rebecca is written in much more complex language. Kate Douglas Wiggins not only uses harder vocabulary, but treats mature themes, such as the child's attitude toward God, and addresses them with complexity. Take this sentence: "To become sensible of oneness with the Divine heart before any sense of separation has been felt, this is surely the most beautiful way for the child to find God."
I can't imagine too many children today between the ages this book was geared for - say, 8-12 or perhaps even up to age 14 who could read this to themselves and fully comprehend it. But it does make a perfect read-aloud. I have stopped to explain words, paragraphs, and entire pages more often while reading Rebecca aloud than any other book I have read to my children. But my 8-year-old has usually grasped the gist of what is going on, and often more. And exposure to writing like this can only be a good thing.
Moreover, we shouldn't underestimate our children. One night when my 6-year-old could not sleep, she came out of bed and listened while I read Rebecca to my older daughter. As I floundered a little while trying to explain the sentence "Miranda Sawyer had a heart, of course, but she had never used it for any other purpose than the pumping and circulating of blood," my 6-year-old piped up, "She never loved anybody!"
Rebecca is a wonderful main character, full of life, and easily related to by children. It is worth looking up a few words and stopping for explanations while reading in order to get to know her.
Have you read Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm? Have your children? Do you see similarities between her and Anne? Do you have a preference?