Goodreads: Anne of West Philly
Age Category: Middle Grade
Siblings Matthew and Marilla decide to foster a teenage girl for the first time–and upbeat Anne Shirley immediately makes a place for herself in their West Philadelphia home. She makes friends with Diana, joins the robotics club, and soon is enrolled in STEM competition with her rival Gilbert. But can West Philly be Anne’s home forever?
Anne of West Philly reimagines L. M. Montgomery’s beloved children’s book for a contemporary audience. Set in the present day, the book follows teenage orphan Anne as siblings Marilla and Matthew decide to foster her in their West Philadelphia home. Anne falls in love with her new life at once, finding beauty all around her, and quickly making friends with Diana and the members of the school’s robotics club. However, while it is interesting to see what changes were considered necessary for a modern adaptation, Anne of West Philly falls just a little bit flat. It feels, indeed, like an experiment in adaptation and not quite like a fully fleshed-out story of its own.
Most of the book’s fun admittedly comes from seeing how the authors decided to update the tale for the children of today. To make Anne relatable, the creators transplant Anne into an American setting where she engages in trendy STEAM activities like building robot obstacle courses and coding wearable technology. Diana is also now Anne’s crush, for all the readers who have longed for the two to be more than just best friends. (Sorry, Gilbert.) Other aspects of the book are softened, so readers never have to feel suspense or worry. Marilla, for instance, is nervous about fostering a teen, but kindhearted and not overly strict. Matthew has health problems, but is obviously going to be okay. Even Rachel Lynde’s claws are covered. All this seems to be on trend for modern children’s adaptations, where the authors seem hesitant to lean into the darker elements of the original source material.
All of this is interesting, but the book does not exactly possess that special something that has made Anne of Green Gables a beloved book, handed down from mothers to daughters through the generations. No doubt some of this stems from the book’s reluctance to acknowledge the original’s darker side; it is harder for a story to have an emotional impact when everyone is kind or just misunderstood, and nothing truly bad ever happens to anyone for long. But, also, Anne of West Philly does not have that love of place that Anne of Green Gables does. One never feels that Anne is a part of her home, and that it is a part of her. Honestly, the book could have been set in just about any city in America–there is not anything that feels uniquely like Philadelphia in this story, nor is there much indication that Anne loves Philadelphia more than anywhere else in the world.
Adapting classics for contemporary audiences is always a fun endeavor. Often, such adaptations reveal a lot about a certain time period’s concerns, their priorities, and their viewpoints on what is “good” for children to consume. Anne of West Philly certainly feels like a product of its time, with lessons on kindness, inclusion, and the importance of women in STEM. This is interesting, but it was not enough for me to fall in love with the characters, the setting, or the story.
4 thoughts on “Anne of West Philly by Ivy Noelle Weir, Illustrated by Myisha Haynes”
We can’t have special something with any retelling of this. The original book sets amazingly high standard. But it’s great Arre’s modern version is relatable to today’s kids. Great review!
Yes, it’s always so difficult to live up to the original!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Honestly a bit confused about the choice to make Anne interested in STEM. I think she’d probably be good at it, since she was a top student in the books, but her imagination and love of writing and reading is such an integral part of her personality, I find it weird to remove them and replace it with STEM, presumably in order to fit some modern messaging about how women can be good at science. It would make more sense to me if she started a book club at her school or something.
Yeah, I’m pretty sure Anne’s good at STEM in this book mainly because STEM is trendy right now and so are girls in STEM books. She does put an artistic spin on it at one point by combining STEM with clothes.
LikeLiked by 1 person