I'm surprised that I liked this book. Normally I have trouble with children's books because I find them too simplistic or didactic, and this book was definitely both of those. Maybe I'm getting kinder towards children's literature now that I'm going to have a child of my own. (I hope so.)
If you haven't read Pollyanna but have heard someone called "a Pollyanna," then the story is probably much like you would expect. A little girl named Pollyanna, recently orphaned, goes to live with her aunt Polly, a strict, strait-laced woman constantly preaching about duty. The optimistic child runs about town chattering incessantly and teaching everyone she meets (mostly adults--there aren't too many children in the story) about the "Glad Game," the rules of which are simply to find something to be "glad" about in everything. The characters are transformed and everyone learns how to be happy. Until, of course, Pollyanna runs into a hardship that even she can't find anything to be glad about.
In my class, I discussed this book in relation to the Disney adaptation, so that's how I've come to think of it. In the movie, they clearly made an effort to turn Pollyanna into a more ordinary (aka believable) child, one who has tantrums and doesn't always like everybody and doesn't talk every waking moment. The trouble with this is that in the end of the movie, Pollyanna's influence in the town is blown to ridiculous proportions. In the book, Pollyanna's character is just extraordinary enough to make a real difference in the personal lives of several individual friends, particularly those she's closest to--so it makes sense. The Pollyanna in the movie, however, is far too normal to make such a huge dent in the culture of the town (which, by the way, is far more judgmental and prejudiced than the town in the novel).
Understandably, the producers of the film decided that a little more plot was necessary, so they tried to add in several plot points with the adults of the story. Otherwise it would just be a story about a little girl running around making friends, which is hardly what moviegoers want to pay good money for. Well, I suppose that's true, but I prefer the simplicity of the book's plot. Little girls love to read about the daily lives of extraordinary children (at least, I did as a child). I didn't think the story needed any embellishment, and I liked the focus on Pollyanna's uniqueness. I didn't mind the movie, but the book pushed more of the right buttons for me.