If you’ve read all your Anne books until their pages have loosened from their spines, Second Story Press has the answer: two Anne-ish books in their Gutsy Girls series.

Caroline Stellings’ The Contest
Second Story Press, 2010

For Avonlea-ish-ness, The Contest is delightful. Although Hamilton, Ontario is a long way from P.E.I.

The story revolves around Rosy, who intends to be the first half-Mohawk girl to win an Anne-of-Green-Gables-look-alike contest.

“Rosy figured that although Anne of Green Gables was an orphan, it was a fair trade for getting to live on an unpolluted island with the ocean and a haunted wood at her door, rather than in a rental house on a dead-end street in Hamilton.”

But The Contest isn’t all about Rosy. Which is where things get all Avonlea-ish. Because Avonlea wasn’t all about Anne either.

There’s her mother, who is raising Rosy and her brothers (Ben, Patrick and John) on her own — like Marilla, but Marilla had Matthew’s help, even if he wasn’t supposed to interfere.

And then there’s Jay and Sebastian, who work at The Tangerine Coiffure. And then there is Mrs. Rodrigues, who trades Portuguese sweet bread and a macaroni casserole for a wash-and-set and cleans their house in exchange for a colour, whereas Mr. and Mrs. Wing run The Golden Leaf Chinese and get trims in exchange for a Number 7 Special.

All of these characters come to play a role in the story. Because, as you might have guessed, Rosy is not a shoe-in for the contest winner.

“There was no way she could lose as far as knowledge of the [Anne] books went, but the costume was another story. She’d rifled through bargain bins at the thrift shop the day before, but nothing was right.”

And it’s not just that she needs help with her costume. But Rosy’s spunk takes her further than she might have guessed.

And happily so, I didn’t guess the outcome of the story’s crisis either. I was afraid it would veer closer to Pollyanna-ish-ness than Anne-ish-ness, but Caroline Stellings did good.

Sharon Jennings’ Home Free
Second Story Press, 2009

For sheer Anne-ish-ness, however, it would be hard to beat Sharon Jennings’ Home Free.

Lee (Leanna) Mets is excited to learn that an orphan will be moving in with the couple who lives next door to their family and she hopes that Cassandra Jovanovich will be like Anne. She’s not. At least not as Lee had hoped.

“Cassandra didn’t know anything about Anne Shirley, but I was pretty sure she knew all about Anne’s depths of despair.”

But many aspects of Lee’s life seem to have slipped directly from L.M. Montgomery’s stories. Miss Gowdy is like Miss Stacy. Kathy is like Josie Pye. Mrs. McMillan, the Sunday School teacher, is like Mrs. Allan. And Lee’s heart beats just like Anne’s (when she sees Gilbert when she’s half-drowned) when she sees David (who shares his copy of Cue for Treason with Lee).

Not all of these comparisons are drawn outright. But some are. Like this:

“I wanted to take my slate — of course, these are the Sixties and we don’t use slates these days — and break it over someone’s head, just like Anne Shirley did to Gilbert Blythe.”

It’s impossible to avoid the Anne-ish-ness of this sweet, bookish tale.

“I know things are really bad when I can’t concentrate on a book.”

That’s Lee. Even though things aren’t really bad then. There is, however, an element of tragedy in the story that surprised me, although, in hindsight,  it fits perfectly with the influence of L.M. Montgomery’s stories.

Thanks to Gundula who recommended these to me on GoodReads. (You can find me here.)

Did Anne (of Green Gables) influence you, or did you have another Gutsy Girl as your heroine? (BTW, if you’re looking for new heroines, Second Story Press publishes many terrific feminist-inspired books for adults and young readers.)