An American Girl Story - Maryellen 1955: Extraordinary Christmas

Movie review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
An American Girl Story - Maryellen 1955: Extraordinary Christmas Movie Poster Image
Semi-historical drama about a plucky girl is lots of fun.
  • NR
  • 2016
  • 48 minutes

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Kids say

age 4+
Based on 2 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

Young viewers will definitely learn more about the time period -- 1955 -- in which this special is set. They may have questions for adults after viewing about polio, World War II, and why girls weren't allowed to wear pants. 

Positive Messages

Maryellen chafes against the restrictions placed on girls: She wonders why girls can't wear pants and why women can only hope to be teachers or secretaries or moms. Grade school students are kind to each other, bringing get-well cards to a sick friend and scheming to get presents for kids in the hospital. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Maryellen is impetuous and makes mistakes but apologizes and tries to do better -- her heart is generally in the right place, and she shows compassion and empathy toward a group of sick kids she meets. Parents are present and caring, spending time with their children and listening to their troubles. A young boy with polio is realistic about his disease and how others make fun of him; he hopes an operation will make him "like everyone else."

Violence & Scariness

A main character's father has died; his death is referred to several times. Kids call each other "dense" and refer to children with disabling polio as "cripples." 

Sexy Stuff

Teens talk about having dates and getting engaged. 


Kids list what they want for Christmas: a Dick Tracy watch, marbles, a new bat, and blue flippers. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that An American Girl Story - Maryellen 1955: Extraordinary Christmas is a sweet drama about a young girl who wants to make her Christmas extra-special. Main character Maryellen is impetuous and makes mistakes but always apologizes and tries to be kind to those around her. Parents are responsible, present, and caring. A high school girl dates and talks about possibly getting engaged and married. Kids call each other "dense" and refer to children disabled by polio as "cripples"; later, they regret these actions and try to make up for them. Young viewers may learn new things about (and may question adults about) polio, World War II, and early feminism. 

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Kid, 12 years old August 5, 2017

Maryellen's Movie Review

The newest film from American Girl, Maryellen 1955: Extraordinary Christmas, is just like the title of this movie: extraordinary. Maryellen is portrayed awesome... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byMluvs2sk8 February 20, 2017


I almost cried with embarrasment for American Girl! Their movies are kind of bad sometimes, but this is exceptionally bad! It's like a homemade movie of an... Continue reading

What's the story?

Maryellen Larkin (Alyvia Alyn Lind), a young girl growing up in Daytona Beach, Florida, in 1955, loves her big family but sometimes feels lost as the middle child. That's why she's going to make this holiday season extra-special in AN AMERICAN GIRL STORY - MARYELLEN 1955: EXTRAORDINARY CHRISTMAS. Wishing she could see snow for once -- and have an only-child Christmas -- she plots to visit her grandparents in the mountains of Georgia. Meanwhile, a friend of Maryellen's mother (Mary McCormack) arrives with her son Benji (Samuel Faraci), who has polio and is hoping to get an operation to help him walk. When Maryellen sees how much Benji wants to get better and how hard it is for his widowed mother to find the money to make it happen, she decides that there's a way she can help Benji and give everyone a special Christmas. 

Is it any good?

Sweet and full of vintage details and clothing, this drama is tailor-made for young tweens who love a story about a relatable kid trying to make a difference. Despite growing up in an earlier time, Maryellen cares about the kinds of things grade schoolers care about -- Christmas presents, how she stands in the family pecking order, fairness, and friendship. In an attempt to stand out, Maryellen makes mistakes -- an attempt to distinguish her house from all the similar houses on the block by painting the front door red backfires, and she accidentally tells her whole family that her sister Joan (Madison Lawlor) is "pinned" to her boyfriend. 

But Maryellen makes more kind gestures than mistakes, heeding her mother's words: "Sometimes if you listen, people tell you what they want most." Once she learns to listen to her family members and friends, she's able to figure out a way to make Christmas special for each of them, and the whole shebang culminates in an improbable Florida snowball fight. Grown-ups may find the proceedings a little cheesy, but An American Girl Story - Maryellen 1955: Extraordinary Christmas is fine, nonthreatening fare for young viewers in the mood for a kindhearted Christmas special. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Maryellen's compassion in An American Girl Story - Maryellen 1955: Extraordinary Christmas. How does she demonstrate kindness to her family and friends? What other positive character traits does she embody?

  • Where is Extraordinary Christmas set? How is the setting communicated? What clues does the show drop? Consider dialogue, costumes, set dressing, and other aspects of the production?

Movie details

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