|Littleton Public Library, New Hampshire|
Why a Glad Day? Pollyanna is an orphan who is sent to live with her maternal aunt when her father dies. Her mother's family had not approved of her marriage to a poor minister, so Aunt Polly is not very welcoming. However, Pollyanna's sunny nature can melt the stoniest of hearts, and soon she has transformed the whole town with her "glad game" which consists of finding something to be glad about in every situation. It started one Christmas when Pollyanna, who was hoping for a doll in the missionary barrel, found only a pair of crutches inside. Pollyanna's father invented the game to teach her always to look for good in bad situations and to find something to be glad about —in this case, that they didn't need to use the crutches! When Pollyanna has an accident, all the people she has helped rally round to help her recover and her aunt is reconciled to, and marries, her former beau, Dr Chilton, leading to a happy ending. Like another of my childhood favourites, Anne of Green Gables, Pollyanna can be irritatingly pious, but the message of the book is a sound one.
There are a dozen or so sequels, (see the list in Wikipedia) but only the first, Pollyanna grows up (1915), was written by Porter. Pollyanna's aunt wishes to accompany her husband to Europe. Rather casually, to the modern eye, she leaves Pollyanna to stay in Boston with the sister of an acquaintance. Mrs Carew's past has left her a bitter woman and Pollyanna, unknowingly, has been "prescribed" for her like a medicine. The glad game works its magic, Mrs Carew is transformed and Pollyanna makes many new friends. She is, however, horrified by the poverty she witnesses in Boston and returns home with views which sound dangerously socialist for the time! At this point, I got rather confused because six years pass and at first the second part of the book seems to bear little relation to what went before. Aunt Polly is now widowed and impoverished (by her standards), and Pollyanna casts around for money-making schemes and ways of preventing her aunt from sinking back into gloom. Her solution is to take in her friends from Boston as summer boarders - the connection is now clear! The rest of the plot features romantic misunderstandings and a rather hard-to-swallow coincidence which I don't think I could summarise without giving the game away. The attitude to a "crippled" character also sits uneasily in the twenty-first century, but is, I suppose, reflective of its times.
Despite these reservations, I've thoroughly enjoyed re-reading both books, but I don't think I'll go on to the sequels by other authors. I'll need to find another childhood heroine to revisit.