Road to Avonlea Review: The Story Girl Earns Her Name

the story girl

“…They’re starting to call me the Story Girl; and you know? The way things have turned out, I don’t think I mind one bit.” – Sara

Episode Summary: After inadvertently helping a stranger run off with money for a Magic Lantern show that would have helped fund a new school library, Sara Stanley is determined to raise the money by any means necessary. Along the way, she meets Jasper Dale (RH Thomson), an awkward recluse who has the technology to help Sara plan another Magic Lantern show. In the end, after earning money for the library, both Sara and Jasper are able to earn the respect of the townspeople. In response to a performance Sara gave of “The Little Matchstick Girl” for the Magic Lantern show, she is now known as “The Story Girl.”

Directed by Bruce Pittman, Written by Patricia Watson, Music by John Welsman

My Grade: So, Road to Avonlea was primarily based off two LM Montgomery novels: The Story Girl and its sequel The Golden Road. So, in those books, there is quite literally a character named “The Story Girl,” which, I guess, Sara Stanley was supposed to be modeled after. I could name all the differences between those books and the TV series. Maybe that’s another article for another time. However, one of the major differences between the two mediums is the characterization of The Story Girl. In the original novel, The Story Girl is older than the other kids, tall, pale, dark-haired, and “plain-looking.” On the other hand, Sarah Polley’s Sara Stanley is pretty much the opposite of that. One of the interesting special features on the DVD is the little brief snippets of the original screen test for the young actors. It’s quite obvious that Sara Stanley was supposed to be portrayed as “plain-looking,” but clearly that was abandoned by the time the series went into production.

Another distinct thing about the novel’s Story Girl is that she told a lot of stories. Every chapter pretty much ended with The Story Girl telling a story, and everyone being so entertained and enamored by it. However, the next episode is literally the last time we ever hear Sara Stanley be referred to as “The Story Girl”…and Sara never “told stories.” The point I’m trying to make is…Sara Stanley is not a “story girl.” This episode implies that this is a nickname that will forever stick with Sara…but it’s not. Here and there, later in the series, we see Sara develop of love of writing and reading…but it’s not enough to justify this non-existent title.

And that’s why I can’t fully get on board with this episode. If Sara Stanley had really become a Story Girl, if Kevin Sullivan had fully committed to that character development for the rest of the series, then I think I’d “respect” this episode more. However, since that’s not the case, I just see this episode as being too busy. Unlike the last episode, it’s nice being introduced to more of the townspeople (and the town itself). In the early episodes, it’s always a treat seeing the talented kid cast work together. But I don’t love this episode as much as most other fans. Too much is going on, and it’s not all that interesting (I left out a lot in my mini episode summary). As it will become clearer in my later episode reviews, I always prefer the simpler, yet more dramatically satisfying episodes, than the episodes filled with hi-jinks and misunderstandings. (B)

the story girl

Spotlight Performance: Like every episode, there are so many to choose from; but I’m going to have to go with Sarah Polley. Despite my earlier ramblings, this is still an important episode for Sara Stanley, because it shows her struggle with trying to fit in with town of Avonlea, and become a true “Islander.” Also, she performed “The Little Match Girl” – the only time Polley gets to actually be a Story Girl, so I gotta give her props.

sara and jasper

Favorite Scene: This episode was directed by Bruce Pittman, whose only episode credit (at least according to IMDB) is “Old Lady Lloyd,” which is only a couple episodes away. Although these episode aren’t necessarily my favorite, they are beautifully directed; and I’ll never not enjoy the last scene where Sara Stanley is running through the meadow to Jasper Dale.

the story girl

Final Thoughts: Like last week, I had some confusion over who wrote this episode. For some reason, IMDB says it’s Heather Conkie, but the episode’s actual credits say Patricia Watson. I feel like my whole world has been rocked. However, it looks like Heather Conkie wrote the next episode so I look forward to offering more praise for her then. There’s very little info on Patricia Watson on the net…which means that if someone googles “Patricia Watson avonlea,” this webpage will probably soon appear within the first 5 pages. Yay!

This episode has two firsts. One, at least on the DVD version, it is the first episode that begins with an opening title sequence (I do not know how these episodes originally aired on Disney Channel and CBC.) And two, it is the first episode scored by John Welsman, thus it is the first time we hear that fluttery, innocent “Story Girl” theme music. Welsman will establish himself as the most prominent Avonlea scorer, until Don Gillis becomes more prominent throughout season four and five.

road to avonlea

Lastly, I just realized this the first episode that features this shot. In a lot of his productions, producer Kevin Sullivan is known for using stock/recycled footage. We will see this shot of the town again a few times throughout the series, including the series finale and the reunion movie a couple years later.

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