A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this book offers a philosophy of life that can have a big impact on younger children. Playing the Glad Game is worth a try for any family. Like other books of its time, it contains a few comments that are considered racist by modern standards: a maid is referred to as "Black Tilly," and there are comments to the effect that little boys from India are "heathens."
What's the story?
Pollyanna has had a hard life. Her mother died when she was young, and she has been impoverished all her life. Now, at the age of eleven, her father has died too, and she is sent to live with her aunt, an austere and humorless woman who does her duty -- and nothing more. She relegates Pollyanna to a hot and barren attic room and hopes that she won't disrupt her quiet household routine too much.
But disruption is only the beginning of what Pollyanna will do to her life. For Pollyanna's father had given her a gift years before, a lever with which to move the world. It's called the Glad Game, and with it Pollyanna proceeds to turn the entire town upside down.
Is it any good?
That POLLYANNA has fallen out of favor says more about our cynical times than it does about the book. Pollyanna was first published (to instant acclaim and success) in the year leading up to WWI, and its kindly philosophy is as relevant today as it was then. There's a reason it has stayed steadily in print for nearly a century, and has been translated into many languages and adapted for film, TV and stage in many countries.
It certainly is a tearjerker, as are many of the greatest works of children's literature. Though its heroine's name has unfairly become a byword for phony optimism, Pollyanna is, in fact, a courageous and resourceful girl whose positive outlook is determined, conscious, and hard-won, and ultimately transformative, both for the characters in the book and for its readers. As with many classics, it's best read aloud to experienced listeners who have not yet entered adolescence.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about optimism. If you were in Pollyanna's shoes, would you be able to share her optimism? Kids: When has positive thinking helped you make the best of an unpleasant situation? Today, Pollyanna is sometimes mocked for foolish optimism. Do you think that characterization is fair, based on the book?