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I don't review books I don't like!

*****= An all-time favorite
****  = Outstanding
***    = Above average
**      = Enjoyable
*        = Good, with reservations



by Eleanor H. Porter

Reviewed February 17, 2003.
Barnes & Noble Books, New York, 1992. Originally published in 1913. 183 pages.
Available at Sembach Library (JF POR).
A Sonderbooks’ Stand-out of 2003:  #2, Young Adult and Children's Classics

Pollyanna has an undeserved bad reputation as someone who is unfailingly cheerful no matter what, in the face of common sense.  The book itself goes much deeper than that.

This is one of those popular stories of the turn of the Century about an orphan girl who transforms the lives of the people around her.  What makes Pollyanna work is that the character is presented in a way in which we believe in her gladness.  Some of the crustiest characters around her do get annoyed by Pollyanna’s perpetual gladness, which makes us believe in her all the more, and adds plenty of humor.  Pollyanna is young and innocent and doesn’t preach.  She simply plays her “glad game” and it starts to change people’s lives.

Many who’ve seen the Disney movie won’t realize that Pollyanna is a very Christian book.  Pollyanna’s father was a traveling minister.  When Pollyanna was very young, she was hoping for a doll in the missionary barrel.  Instead, all that was in it was crutches.  Pollyanna cried about it, and that was when her father introduced her to the “glad game.”  The object of the game is to find something to be glad about in everything.  Thinking of it as a game, the harder it is to find something to be glad about, the more fun.  In the case of the crutches, they were glad that she didn’t need them!

Pollyanna’s father based this game on the “rejoicing texts” in the Bible--all the verses that say to “rejoice” or “shout for joy” or “be glad.”  One day he decided to count them and found more than 800.  He decided that if the Bible tells us more than 800 times to be glad, maybe we should pay attention.

This book is much more than a sermon, though.  Toward the end of the book, Pollyanna has an accident and learns she may never walk again.  In the face of such a trial, she has no heart to play the game.  On hearing that news, the whole town rallies round her.  Many people start playing the glad game just to try to cheer up Pollyanna.  That part of the book takes it beyond a blithe “be happy all the time” perspective.

This is an old-fashioned book, but it stands the test of time.  I think it would be great to read to kids, only you’d better try to catch them before they’ve gotten cynical!  This is a fun, refreshing, uplifting story that’s also convicting.  I was complaining today, and caught myself by thinking of this book.  A simple message, but a good one, and a good story besides.

Reader comment:  An anonymous reader gives this book 5 stars.

A review of the sequel to Pollyanna:  Pollyanna Grows Up

Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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