MacLachlan, Patricia. Sarah, Plain and Tall. New York: HarperCollins, 1985. ISBN: 0060241020
1996 Newbery Medal Winner
“Did Mama sing every day?” starts off Sarah, Plain and Tall. Anna and Caleb’s mother died the day after Caleb was born. After their father advertises in the newspaper for a wife, Sarah Elisabeth Wheaton from Maineresponds and comes to stay with the Whitting family. The family spends time getting to know Sarah who has a cat, loves the sea, draws, picks flowers, braids hair, and yes, sings. Anna and Caleb are worried when Sarah wants to go into town alone. Sarah misses her home and the children are afraid she will abandon them.
This book is simple, yet full of meaning. The thoughts, actions and feelings of young Anna and Caleb reveal their everyday life and do an excellent job showing prairie life and how one their age would respond to loss. The plot quickly develops and is good natured and easy going even though it deals with children’s fears. MacLachlan’s writing style is extremely fluid and makes you want to keep reading. Knowing how much material is available to go with this book, the sequels and movie only add to my delight with the story. My fourth grade son is reading this book now in class and at first I was concerned he wouldn’t like it because the main character is a girl, but he really seems to be enjoying the story.
Note: It was difficult to find professional reviews of this book. Several found were of the audio recording.
THE NEW YORK TIMES: “An exquisite, sometimes painfully touching tale.”
AMAZON.COM “The tale gently explores themes of abandonment, loss and love.”
*Also by MacLachlan and sequels to Sarah, Plain and Tall
Skylark ISBN: 0064406229
Caleb’s Story ISBN: 0060236051
*Watch the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie after reading the book.
*Many activities for geography, writing, grammar, and even science and math.
*Family, mail order brides, the prairie, westward expansion.
*Discuss something you miss and how you keep the memory alive. Draw a picture in the way Sarah would have.
*There is a plethora of material available on the web. Here are just a few sites: