Pollyanna
Eleanor F. Porter
1913

Just the mention of the name “Pollyanna” is liable to create one of two reactions in many readers (some may have both!): an image of a cute, young Hayley Mills and/or the word “glad.”

Both are appropriate! I remember the Hayley Mills movie from when I was a kid, but I’d never actually read Pollyanna until just recently. I’m so glad I did! This book has become such a part of our cultural heritage that people even use the term “pollyanna-ish” or “pollyanna spirit.”

Pollyanna consistently played the “Glad game” until she suffered a tragic accident; then, people who’d been transformed by her positive outlook rallied around her and helped her play the game for herself. The book has a triumphant ending befitting its cheery disposition.

Still readable today, this is a terrific option to throw at elementary students (and middle) who enjoy other old-fashioned stories about girls facing hardship and not giving up. (Um, Secret Garden, Five Little Peppers, Anne of Green Gables, Little Women… anyone?).

One final note: this is the best literary description of the Proverb: “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.”  (Proverbs 17:22)

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