Take a story's temperature by studying its tone. Is it hopeful? Cynical? Snarky? Playful?
Heavy but Uplifting
A Little Princess isn't exactly a story about rainbows and butterflies and little girls who are princesses (despite what the title may imply). In fact, it's about death and loss and the ugliness of human nature. Yup, some pretty heavy stuff. Even though the whole story is kind of down in the dumps though, the tone keeps it from getting too self-pitying and bleak. When things are at their worst, Sara continues to find the silver lining:
"Yes," answered Sara, nodding. "Adversity tries people, and mine has tried you and proved how nice you are." (8.76)
Instead, the tone is hopeful and even playful—it continually looks for things to lift the reader out of the dark situation (just as Sara is lifted out of her dark situation) and into a more magical story.