Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

An American Girl Story - Maryellen 1955: Extraordinary Christmas

An American Girl Story - Maryellen 1955: Extraordinary Christmas

Spring 2017 Television
Ages: 6 - 12 yrs.
Producer: Amazon Studios
Rating: TV Y7

Set against a nostalgic backdrop of Daytona Beach, Florida, circa 1955, young Maryellen Larkin longs to stand out amongst her four siblings. From the opening scene where she makes mischief in the Christmas window display of the local department store (playing in the "snow" and wearing pants instead of a dress - a scandalous move for a young girl in 1955) it's clear Maryellen has endless energy. She just doesn't have as clear a sense of how to channel it into something that will make her "extraordinary." Several attempts, such as painting the home's front door an eye-catching shade of fuchsia, just don't have the positive effect she was hoping for.

But then, a family friend and her son Benji visit the Larkins, in town so Benji can have surgery for polio. Maryellen had polio, too, so she's keenly aware of how fortunate she is to have fully recovered and is especially sensitive to Benji's on-going medical complications. When she meets other children in the hospital's polio ward, she takes her mother's advice to try to stand out by helping others. Although good intentions are waylaid by a few obstacles, Maryellen's determination results in a merry Christmas for the young patients.

Although the family seems a little too sincere and tidy, the themes of character and kindness, along with understated comments alluding to feminism (mom supervised a factory during World War II, and oldest sister muses on college and profession vs. marriage) are what will resonate with young viewers.

Gina Catanzarite   ©2017 Parents' Choice
Gina Catanzarite is an award-winning television producer, writer, teacher, mom and media consultant in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She began her career in 1987 and counts 9 Emmy awards, 26 Emmy nominations, a Matrix award, two Pennsylvania Broadcaster's Association Awards, 8 Telly Awards, and a screenwriting grant from the Theatre Association of Pennsylvania, among her professional honors.

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