All I need to be entertained are cats within ear-scratching distance and a good book . . .OK, maybe that's not ALL I need, but it's a good start.

I love to read. And I love to get recommendations for books to read.

I started Cats and a Book to share the books I read with others. Some I love, some I don't, but you may love the ones I don't, so you're welcome to post your own comments and suggestions.

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Happy reading!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Pollyanna, by Eleanor H. Porter

Another novel from my “Grandma’s Bookcase” series, Pollyanna was written in 1913 and is the book from which the term “Pollyanna” is derived. Someone might be said to be a “Pollyanna” who is naïve or given to cheerful optimism when circumstances might not encourage it.

Eleanor Porter's heroine, Pollyanna, is the eleven-year-old orphaned niece of her spinster aunt Polly, who resides in a quaint New England town in Vermont. After Pollyanna's father, the Reverend Whittier died, who had been preceded in death by Pollyanna’s mother Jennie, the orphan is sent to live with her aunt Polly, who accepts the charge out of what she thinks is “her duty.” In Aunt Polly’s opinion, Jennie had married poorly. She turned down a wealthy suitor whom she did not love in favor of the poor reverend. And now, she feels obligated to raise Jennie’s only daughter.

Pollyanna is full of life and spirit, something Aunt Polly’s house has been lacking for many years. An unhappy love affair many years prior left Aunt Polly bitter and reclusive. Fortunately, Aunt Polly’s housekeeper, Miss Nancy, and gardener, Mr. Tom, give Pollyanna the attention and gentleness Aunt Polly can’t seem to offer.

What makes Pollyanna unique is her “glad game” which she learned from her father. The “glad game” began when a “missionary barrel” (a donation of clothes and other household goods to the Western missionary minister) included crutches instead of the doll she wanted. In order to assuage her disappointment, her father tells her to think of something to be glad about--which in this case, was that she didn’t need the crutches.  Pollyanna revels in finding something for everyone to be glad about, and the more gloomy the outlook, the better.

Pollyanna teaches the glad game to almost everyone she meets, and spreads her grateful optimism to the entire town except Aunt Polly, who can’t abide hearing about Pollyanna’s father.  It takes a tragedy affecting Pollyanna for Aunt Polly’s heart to soften completely, and not toward Pollyanna alone.  Toward the conclusion of the book, Aunt Polly tells Pollyanna: 

"So you see, dear, it's just you that have done it.  The whole town is playing the game, and the whole town is wonderfully happier--and all because of one little girl who taught the people a new game, and how to play it." 

Pollyanna contains some fairly far stretches for the modern and more cynical reader. But there is a good lesson in the “glad game.” Finding something to be glad for every day is a good exercise in putting things in proper perspective, no matter how overwhelming they might seem.

Pollyanna, written by Eleanor H. Porter, was published in 1913 by the Page Company.  Pollyanna is also available as a free digital download through Google Books.

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