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Sarah, Plain and Tall

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This beloved Newbery Medal–winning book is the first of five books in Patricia MacLachlan's chapter book series about the Witting family. Set in the late nineteenth century and told from young Anna's point of view, Sarah, Plain and Tall tells the story of how Sarah Elisabeth Wheaton comes from Maine to the prairie to answer Papa's advertisement for a wife and mother. Before This beloved Newbery Medal–winning book is the first of five books in Patricia MacLachlan's chapter book series about the Witting family. Set in the late nineteenth century and told from young Anna's point of view, Sarah, Plain and Tall tells the story of how Sarah Elisabeth Wheaton comes from Maine to the prairie to answer Papa's advertisement for a wife and mother. Before Sarah arrives, Anna and her younger brother Caleb wait and wonder. Will Sarah be nice? Will she sing? Will she stay? This children's literature classic is perfect for fans of Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie books, historical fiction, and timeless stories using rich and beautiful language. Sarah, Plain and Tall gently explores themes of abandonment, loss and love.


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This beloved Newbery Medal–winning book is the first of five books in Patricia MacLachlan's chapter book series about the Witting family. Set in the late nineteenth century and told from young Anna's point of view, Sarah, Plain and Tall tells the story of how Sarah Elisabeth Wheaton comes from Maine to the prairie to answer Papa's advertisement for a wife and mother. Before This beloved Newbery Medal–winning book is the first of five books in Patricia MacLachlan's chapter book series about the Witting family. Set in the late nineteenth century and told from young Anna's point of view, Sarah, Plain and Tall tells the story of how Sarah Elisabeth Wheaton comes from Maine to the prairie to answer Papa's advertisement for a wife and mother. Before Sarah arrives, Anna and her younger brother Caleb wait and wonder. Will Sarah be nice? Will she sing? Will she stay? This children's literature classic is perfect for fans of Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie books, historical fiction, and timeless stories using rich and beautiful language. Sarah, Plain and Tall gently explores themes of abandonment, loss and love.

30 review for Sarah, Plain and Tall

  1. 4 out of 5

    Petra X living life blissfully,not through books!

    This is a slight book, an hour or two's read at most, yet it's deeply moving and addresses the existential problems of life in a straightforward way. The book is as plain as Sarah, but neither the word "plain" nor Sarah's beauty or lack of it are ever defined. Does 'plain' mean not-good looking, not beautiful on the surface or does it mean unadorned, without unnecessary ornament, both in looks and her character. In the context of the book either way makes perfect sense. The story has but a small This is a slight book, an hour or two's read at most, yet it's deeply moving and addresses the existential problems of life in a straightforward way. The book is as plain as Sarah, but neither the word "plain" nor Sarah's beauty or lack of it are ever defined. Does 'plain' mean not-good looking, not beautiful on the surface or does it mean unadorned, without unnecessary ornament, both in looks and her character. In the context of the book either way makes perfect sense. The story has but a small plot, a dead mother, a child who misses what he's never known, an older sister who is bored with comforting her younger brother, a father who does his best but is overwhelmed and lonely as the only adult holding his family together. And then comes Sarah. Answering an advert for a wife, we never learn why she never married and was willing to leave her home for an unknown man, hard work in a deeply rural setting and a ready-made family. Problems are presented, solutions suggested but most important in this book, are the feelings engendered by the meeting of this lonely family and this lonely woman and how they all bond, tentatively at first, into a beautiful family with a future expanded by love. The most interesting part of the book for me was Sarah. Who was she? Who was this woman who was homesick for a life that is never described that she left because of loneliness? In the same way as the mad woman in the attic in Jane Eyre has her story unfolded in the Wide Sargasso Sea, I feel a book that tells of Sarah and what there was in her life that drove her to reply to an advertisement for a wife and mother in a place very far from home is a story waiting to be told. The writing is simple, ideal for a child, but the book, the central mystery of Sarah, makes it just as interesting for an adult. I loved this little book.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽

    This is really a lovely little story, beautifully told, deceptively simple, full of hope and fear and love. Sarah, Plain and Tall, winner of the Newbery Medal (one the shortest books ever to win that award), was written in 1985 but feels like something from a much earlier time. It could have been written 80 or 100 years ago. It's timeless. It's based on a true story about the author's ancestors.* There are a lot of mail order bride romances out there, but this is one from the children's point of This is really a lovely little story, beautifully told, deceptively simple, full of hope and fear and love. Sarah, Plain and Tall, winner of the Newbery Medal (one the shortest books ever to win that award), was written in 1985 but feels like something from a much earlier time. It could have been written 80 or 100 years ago. It's timeless. It's based on a true story about the author's ancestors.* There are a lot of mail order bride romances out there, but this is one from the children's point of view, although you catch fascinating glimpses of what's going on in the minds of their father Jacob, and Sarah, his potential bride. Anna and Caleb are two young children who in the U.S. plains with their widowed father, in maybe the late 1800s? Their mother died the day after Caleb was born.They had come for her in a wagon and taken her away to be buried. And then the cousins and aunts and uncles had come and tried to fill up the house. But they couldn't.Now Jacob has advertised for a mail order wife, and Sarah Wheaton from Maine, who describes herself as "plain and tall," writes a letter to him. They arrange for Sarah - and her gray cat, Seal - to come visit their family for a month, to see if it's a good fit, before making a permanent decision. Caleb wears his heart on his sleeve, desperately wanting Sarah to stay but afraid that their house is too small, and that he is too loud and pesky. Anna hopes too, but is more cautious and watchful. Their father Jacob learns to laugh and sing again, even as he is arguing with Sarah about whether she should wear his overalls, ride his skittish horse, and help fix the roof. And Sarah ... Sarah misses the sea. But "there are always things to miss, no matter where you are.” And things - and people - that work their way into your heart and find a home there. * I'd love to know more about the original story but there's not a lot out there, at least that I've been able to find so far, other than that MacLachlan's mother and/or aunt begged her to write a book about this story.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sheri

    Captures the many emotions of starting a new life while still remembering the old. A short and simple yet tender and touching story.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne

    This was lovely. I did have quotes I wanted to share, but as I read this one weeks ago, I've lost the drive to look them up. A nice addition was the notes at the end from the author which include her acceptance speech from awards the novel won. Interesting were her thoughts on the writing process, and what her children taught her along the way. I think this is a classic that does not have a lot of recognition here in Australia. Sarah, who happens to be plain and tall, comes to a farm of a widow This was lovely. I did have quotes I wanted to share, but as I read this one weeks ago, I've lost the drive to look them up. A nice addition was the notes at the end from the author which include her acceptance speech from awards the novel won. Interesting were her thoughts on the writing process, and what her children taught her along the way. I think this is a classic that does not have a lot of recognition here in Australia. Sarah, who happens to be plain and tall, comes to a farm of a widow and his two young children, who hope she will stay for the long haul. Each member of this family having things to teach one another.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Calista

    Patricia did some amazing character development for such a short story. With this, you are in and you're out. A family lost their mother and Sarah answers an ad in the paper. They write letters back and forth. Sarah goes from Maine to the plains. The kids love Sarah. There is a big Squall to be the big piece of this book. It was a quick, enjoyable read. If you loved Little house on the Prairie, then you need to read this too. Great for 3rd and 4th grade readers. Patricia did some amazing character development for such a short story. With this, you are in and you're out. A family lost their mother and Sarah answers an ad in the paper. They write letters back and forth. Sarah goes from Maine to the plains. The kids love Sarah. There is a big Squall to be the big piece of this book. It was a quick, enjoyable read. If you loved Little house on the Prairie, then you need to read this too. Great for 3rd and 4th grade readers.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Aranda

    3.75-4 stars What a nice read. There was an audiobook available that was nice to read-a-long with the print book. The audiobook had music at some of the end parts and it was quite soothing to listen to. This wasn’t the most thrilling book I’ve ever listened to but I wasn’t expecting it to be. It was supposed to soothe me and my hurting spirit. The kids telling their point of view and letting all their emotions out helped me greatly. The adults offering bits of wisdom was also a comfort. Sometimes 3.75-4 stars What a nice read. There was an audiobook available that was nice to read-a-long with the print book. The audiobook had music at some of the end parts and it was quite soothing to listen to. This wasn’t the most thrilling book I’ve ever listened to but I wasn’t expecting it to be. It was supposed to soothe me and my hurting spirit. The kids telling their point of view and letting all their emotions out helped me greatly. The adults offering bits of wisdom was also a comfort. Sometimes when we’re hurt, it helps to have a comfortable read. I had no idea that there was a series about this family when I first started reading “Sarah, Plain and Tall,” but now that I know I am determined to read the entire series.

  7. 5 out of 5

    PattyMacDotComma

    5★ Warm and fuzzy story told by Anna, about her father seeking a wife and mother for them and her little brother, Caleb in the 1800s. Heart-warming, short, easy, and the first of several books, I see. A simple story for kids that is appealing to adults for the underlying meaning as well as the 'plain' story. The children have commented that their father doesn’t sing anymore. Widowed many years ago after the birth of young Caleb, Jacob realises it’s time to find a wife and mother so advertises for 5★ Warm and fuzzy story told by Anna, about her father seeking a wife and mother for them and her little brother, Caleb in the 1800s. Heart-warming, short, easy, and the first of several books, I see. A simple story for kids that is appealing to adults for the underlying meaning as well as the 'plain' story. The children have commented that their father doesn’t sing anymore. Widowed many years ago after the birth of young Caleb, Jacob realises it’s time to find a wife and mother so advertises for one, as his neighbour did so successfully. He receives a reply from Sarah, a girl in Maine, who wants to move from the home she’s shared with her brother so he and his new wife can have it to themselves. He and Anna both exchange letters with Sarah, who agrees to come for a month’s visit. “ 'Dear Jacob, I will come by train. I will wear a yellow bonnet. I am plain and tall. Sarah.' ‘What’s that?’ asked Caleb, excitedly, peering over Papa’s shoulder. He pointed. ‘There, written at the bottom of the letter.’ Papa read it to himself. Then he smiled, holding up the letter for us to see. Tell them I sing was all it said.” When she arrives, she speaks so often of the sea and loving to live near the shore, that the children read all kinds of meaning into each comment, worrying she will decide not to stay. Quite delightful - I figured if Glenn Close had been involved in the film versions of this saga, it must be good, and it was. I see it’s been written to meet the Common Core State Standards, so it’s obviously a good choice for parents and teachers to encourage young readers. And there seem to be a lot of teaching resources available too. The beauty of books like this for kids is that they really don't 'date', since it's historical fiction. Probably appeal to fans of Little House on the Prairie.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Juli

    I have loved this sweet story since I saw the Hallmark movie starring Glenn Close and Christopher Walken back in the early 90's. At that time, I didn't know the film is based on a book. I now have a rule that before I can watch a film adaptation, I have to read the book first. I'm a few decades late on this one....but decided to make it right and enjoy this book. OMG.....this book is just so sweet and beautiful. I don't often read sentimental stories like this, but I'm glad I took the time to en I have loved this sweet story since I saw the Hallmark movie starring Glenn Close and Christopher Walken back in the early 90's. At that time, I didn't know the film is based on a book. I now have a rule that before I can watch a film adaptation, I have to read the book first. I'm a few decades late on this one....but decided to make it right and enjoy this book. OMG.....this book is just so sweet and beautiful. I don't often read sentimental stories like this, but I'm glad I took the time to enjoy this one. Sarah Wheaton lives in Maine. Her brother is getting married soon so she answers an advertisement placed by a man named Jacob in Kansas who is looking for a wife and mother for his two children. Anna and Caleb lost their mother six years before. She died soon after giving birth to Caleb. The story relates the family's meeting Sarah and the month that she stays with them to see if a relationship with Jacob will work. Just a beautiful story! There are actually 5 books in the Sarah, Plain and Tall series. I knew that there was a second book, Skylark, because I watched the movie version when it first came out. But I have never read the other books. I'm definitely going to read them now! Some stories just make you happy in your heart and soul, and this one does that for me. A entertaining, feel-good, just totally enjoyable book! I can't wait to read the rest of the series! I listened to the audiobook version of this story. At just over an hour long, it's a quick listen. Perfect for enjoying with kids. Glenn Close narrates, which is perfect! Loved it!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Hilary

    This was lovely, almost 5 stars, just too short, we wanted more details of day to day life and felt we didn't really get to know the characters as well as we would have liked to. The story describes how a young family who are suffering the loss of the mother following childbirth a few years previously meets someone new who comes in to their lives as a potential wife/mother. The description of the the book says that the father advertises for a wife, I think describing Sarah as a mail-order wife a This was lovely, almost 5 stars, just too short, we wanted more details of day to day life and felt we didn't really get to know the characters as well as we would have liked to. The story describes how a young family who are suffering the loss of the mother following childbirth a few years previously meets someone new who comes in to their lives as a potential wife/mother. The description of the the book says that the father advertises for a wife, I think describing Sarah as a mail-order wife and that Sarah answers this advert and comes for a months trial. This sounded rather strange, but I suppose times were different and living in such a remote place perhaps this was the only way of meeting someone new. However the months trial was for both parties and Sarah soon establishes that she does things her own way and the childrens dad respects this and trusts her choices. I liked the way the relationships gradually strengthened and their happiness came in a subtle and realistic way, I expected parts to be a bit sickly and romantic, but it wasn't. I would love to read more about this family and hope the following books live up to this one.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Andrea Cox

    by Andrea Renee Cox Aw! This story is so sweet every time. Will I cry each time I read it? Probably. It's just that sweet. (And I'm a bit of a weeper when it comes to those types of stories.) Sarah is such a fun and spunky heroine. I love how great she is with the kids. Now I want to dig out my movie version and watch Glenn Close as Sarah, plain and tall. She always makes me smile in that role. I was not compensated for my honest review. by Andrea Renee Cox Aw! This story is so sweet every time. Will I cry each time I read it? Probably. It's just that sweet. (And I'm a bit of a weeper when it comes to those types of stories.) Sarah is such a fun and spunky heroine. I love how great she is with the kids. Now I want to dig out my movie version and watch Glenn Close as Sarah, plain and tall. She always makes me smile in that role. I was not compensated for my honest review.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Luisa Knight

    I know it's hard to believe, but the book was sweeter than the movie; which, ironically, I actually wasn't expecting. The book is, after all, only 67 pages and I wasn't aware that such character development and likableness could occur in such a short span of time. But give a great author a pen and I guess magic can happen. The characters were great! I liked the fact that Anna was on board with having Sarah come. I'm not sure why they changed that in the movie. More drama perhaps. The dialogue, wh I know it's hard to believe, but the book was sweeter than the movie; which, ironically, I actually wasn't expecting. The book is, after all, only 67 pages and I wasn't aware that such character development and likableness could occur in such a short span of time. But give a great author a pen and I guess magic can happen. The characters were great! I liked the fact that Anna was on board with having Sarah come. I'm not sure why they changed that in the movie. More drama perhaps. The dialogue, which I found somewhat silly in the movie, really worked in the book. It somehow made Anna and Caleb more endearing with their one-word repetitive replies. It's a quick little read, but one that shouldn't be forgotten or missed for family reading time. Ages: 6 - 10 Cleanliness: nothing to note. **Like my reviews? Then you should follow me! Because I have hundreds more just like this one. With each review, I provide a Cleanliness Report, mentioning any objectionable content I come across so that parents and/or conscientious readers (like me) can determine beforehand whether they want to read a book or not. Content surprises are super annoying, especially when you’re 100+ pages in, so here’s my attempt to help you avoid that! So Follow or Friend me here on GoodReads! You’ll see my updates as I’m reading and know which books I’m liking and what I’m not finishing and why. You’ll also be able to utilize my library for looking up titles to see whether the book you’re thinking about reading next has any objectionable content or not. From swear words, to romance, to bad attitudes (in children’s books), I cover it all!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    “The dogs loved Sarah first.” Years ago someone recommended this children’s book to me, and I’m sorry I waited so long to read it. Not a hint of condescension in here; just beautifully evocative simplicity. “Gophers ran back and forth across the road, stopping to stand up and watch the wagon. Far off in a field a woodchuck ate and listened. Ate and listened.” It’s a touching, feel-good story, but much more: strong characters, subtle emotions, a well-drawn setting, and threads of tension carrying it “The dogs loved Sarah first.” Years ago someone recommended this children’s book to me, and I’m sorry I waited so long to read it. Not a hint of condescension in here; just beautifully evocative simplicity. “Gophers ran back and forth across the road, stopping to stand up and watch the wagon. Far off in a field a woodchuck ate and listened. Ate and listened.” It’s a touching, feel-good story, but much more: strong characters, subtle emotions, a well-drawn setting, and threads of tension carrying it along. Perfect for readers of any age, and I loved it.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette (Ms. Feisty)

    My mother is a retired librarian, and this was one of the books she recommended most frequently for young readers. Now many years into retirement, she still suggests it regularly. Anna and Caleb live on the prairie with their papa. Mama died from childbirth complications, and the house feels hollow now that Papa doesn't sing anymore. Sarah comes from Maine for a one-month trial period to see if she and Papa might want to marry. Sarah is plain and tall, which is probably why she hasn't yet found My mother is a retired librarian, and this was one of the books she recommended most frequently for young readers. Now many years into retirement, she still suggests it regularly. Anna and Caleb live on the prairie with their papa. Mama died from childbirth complications, and the house feels hollow now that Papa doesn't sing anymore. Sarah comes from Maine for a one-month trial period to see if she and Papa might want to marry. Sarah is plain and tall, which is probably why she hasn't yet found a husband. But she has the inner beauty and a lot of lovable qualities the prettier girls don't always offer. Sarah brings a quiet patience, a love of song, a joy in nature and all beauty, a sense of fun and mischief, and most important, adaptability. As the trial period progresses, Anna and Caleb fall ever more in love with Sarah. They watch anxiously for signs that she might not be planning to stay, rejoicing when she shows any little possibility of putting down roots. They're watching Papa, too, hoping he'll be as fond of Sarah as they are. This story is a model of perfect simplicity. Read it and you, too, might fall in love with Sarah. It's not often that a children's book will move me to tears, but this one did at the end.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kellyn Roth

    This is a sweet story that I loved when I read it as a small child and loved again when I read it a year or two ago. It's really simple and easy to understand, but there are subtle things that I didn't catch when I was little that I caught when I read it more recently ... so I think it's good for all ages, not just children. :) This is a sweet story that I loved when I read it as a small child and loved again when I read it a year or two ago. It's really simple and easy to understand, but there are subtle things that I didn't catch when I was little that I caught when I read it more recently ... so I think it's good for all ages, not just children. :)

  15. 4 out of 5

    Hadas Tsury

    Great story, very touching.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Adrienne

    I'd forgotten all about this gem, until I saw someone elses review on here..I loved this and so did my daughter. I'd forgotten all about this gem, until I saw someone elses review on here..I loved this and so did my daughter.

  17. 5 out of 5

    David

    Can we say overrated? This is supposed to be one of the greatest classics in Children's Literature, and the winner of the Newbery in 1986. There's no character development...no action...just a bunch of waiting around for some kind of story to develop. I can summarize this story with these questions and answers coming from the snot-nosed, little children in the novel: "Will we have a mother? Will Sarah come? Will she like me? Will she stay? Yes." Boring. Thank God Glenn Close made the character so Can we say overrated? This is supposed to be one of the greatest classics in Children's Literature, and the winner of the Newbery in 1986. There's no character development...no action...just a bunch of waiting around for some kind of story to develop. I can summarize this story with these questions and answers coming from the snot-nosed, little children in the novel: "Will we have a mother? Will Sarah come? Will she like me? Will she stay? Yes." Boring. Thank God Glenn Close made the character somewhat more tolerable in the made-for-TV version of this book. If I had to read this again, I think I'd KILL myself.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    Fact #1: My car is gray & I named it Seal, after Sarah's cat. Fact #2: I am an übernerd. Fact #1: My car is gray & I named it Seal, after Sarah's cat. Fact #2: I am an übernerd.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Hoda Marmar

    3.5 stars This was a sweet tale about loss, love, and family.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Classic literature remains and endures through time. Sarah, Plain and Tall is one of those classics that will endure. Written in a simple style that imitates the simple life people lived while farming the frontier of America, this book is a poignant reminder of the hardships endured by families in that era. It touches on lives affected by death, by loss, by separation. It shows a young boy worried about new separation. And it shows how a grown woman deals with separation in her own way. Beautifu Classic literature remains and endures through time. Sarah, Plain and Tall is one of those classics that will endure. Written in a simple style that imitates the simple life people lived while farming the frontier of America, this book is a poignant reminder of the hardships endured by families in that era. It touches on lives affected by death, by loss, by separation. It shows a young boy worried about new separation. And it shows how a grown woman deals with separation in her own way. Beautifully written.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    Short and sweet. Great for 2nd-5th graders and adults like me who love stories about pioneers.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Aj Sterkel

    If you’ve ever taken a children’s literature class, chances are you’ve seen this book. If you’ve taken a lot of children literature classes, you’ve probably seen this book more than once. It’s a beloved classic. I’ve heard so much about it that I decided it was time for me to read it. My reaction upon finishing it: “Um . . . okay?” Sarah, Plain and Tall is a short chapter book that is set in the 1800s and narrated by a child named Anna. Anna’s mother died giving birth to Anna’s brother, Caleb. One If you’ve ever taken a children’s literature class, chances are you’ve seen this book. If you’ve taken a lot of children literature classes, you’ve probably seen this book more than once. It’s a beloved classic. I’ve heard so much about it that I decided it was time for me to read it. My reaction upon finishing it: “Um . . . okay?” Sarah, Plain and Tall is a short chapter book that is set in the 1800s and narrated by a child named Anna. Anna’s mother died giving birth to Anna’s brother, Caleb. One day, their father places an ad in a national newspaper in the hopes of finding a new wife and mother for his children. After exchanging a few letters with the family, Sarah comes from Maine to live with them. Anna and Caleb love her instantly, but they worry that she’ll leave them like their birth mother did. “I will come by train. I will wear a yellow bonnet. I am plain and tall.” – Sarah, Plain and Tall For me, this book was a case of expectations being much different from reality. I’ve been hearing so much about this story for so many years that I had high expectations. The writing is great, but I thought there would be more to the plot. This is one of those books where you’re waiting and waiting for something to happen, but “something” never shows up. Sarah and Papa basically meet through the 1800s version of online dating. They put ads in papers, write a few letters to each other, then she moves across the country to be with him. I expected this transition to be more difficult. Sarah is homesick, but that’s about it. I thought there would be some tension, or awkwardness, or discussion of family roles, or adjustment issues as Sarah goes from childless to the mother of two children. I thought we’d find out what motivated Sarah to leave everything behind and become a mother to a family she’s never met. Nope. Everything happens easily; the adults don’t have any emotional baggage; and everyone is thrilled with the changes. The suspense in the story comes from Anna worrying that Sarah will leave. The best part of the book is how realistically the author captures Anna’s grief for her mother and fear of being abandoned by Sarah. Anna’s emotions are subtle, but the author trusts that young readers will notice them. There’s nothing heavy-handed about this book. The author knows that kids are smart and don’t need to be beat over the head with a moral. For an adult, this is a quick read. I got through it in about an hour. I enjoyed it, but I was expecting more action.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jenna

    I was assigned to read this slim little book in school when I was small, but I only skimmed it back then, since at that age I had no patience for books that weren't overtly romantic (a la Jane Eyre) or ostentatiously clever (a la Alice Through the Looking Glass). Many quality children's books are this way: we aren't emotionally ready for them when they're foisted on us in childhood; we can only appreciate them when we're older, when we've experienced all the different flavors of loneliness. Only I was assigned to read this slim little book in school when I was small, but I only skimmed it back then, since at that age I had no patience for books that weren't overtly romantic (a la Jane Eyre) or ostentatiously clever (a la Alice Through the Looking Glass). Many quality children's books are this way: we aren't emotionally ready for them when they're foisted on us in childhood; we can only appreciate them when we're older, when we've experienced all the different flavors of loneliness. Only then does the quiet scene with Jacob and Sarah standing side by side in the barn during the squall make the ligaments in our chests twang the way it's meant to. Other reviewers have commented on how Jacob's and Sarah's early "courtship" via newspaper ads and handwritten letters is a sort of 19th-century analogue to modern online dating, and, when viewed this way, the narrative is even more resonant: reading the story in this light, we can see, for example, that Sarah's choice to describe her physical appearance as "plain and tall" in her letters was partly intended to forestall any disappointment Jacob might feel on meeting her for the first time, and Jacob is willing to accept her "plainness" partly because of his non-superficial personality and partly because, as a widowed father of two leading the economically unsteady life of a farmer, he doesn't have a ton of alternatives. All this adds an element of pathos to what initially might seem like a throwaway detail. Also, this book's endless harping on the differences between the Midwest and northern New England finally makes some emotional sense to me now that I've lived in both regions. I'm grateful to this article for reminding me of this book's existence, inspiring me to give it another go; some time soon, I hope also to revisit Little Town on the Prairie (a childhood favorite, mostly for the blood-pounding "Miss Wilder, if you want that seat rocked faster, I'll rock it for you!" civil disobedience scene).

  24. 5 out of 5

    Relyn

    This is my absolute favorite book. Well, OK, top 10. You know how it is with me and favorites. I have lost count of how many times I've read this little gem of a book. Every sentence is perfect and adds to the story. Each sentence has not one word or description too many. The prose is spare and perfect. The books reads like masterful storytelling instead of novel reading. I love this book! I've lost count of how many times I have read it. Until this year, I taught it every year to my fourth grade This is my absolute favorite book. Well, OK, top 10. You know how it is with me and favorites. I have lost count of how many times I've read this little gem of a book. Every sentence is perfect and adds to the story. Each sentence has not one word or description too many. The prose is spare and perfect. The books reads like masterful storytelling instead of novel reading. I love this book! I've lost count of how many times I have read it. Until this year, I taught it every year to my fourth graders at the end of our Westward Expansion unit. Some time ago I found it as a recorded book with Glenn Close as the reader. She is the perfect narrator. She is Sarah, after all. Glenn Close produced and starred as Sarah in the Hallmark Hall of Fame version. That movie is also amazing. With her talents, you know this audio book is a winner.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    I saw a reference to this book in a "Books of the Century" list and realized I hadn't ever read it or watched the TV movies with Glenn Close. Here's what I suggest. When you're feeling in the mood for gentle, authentic uplift, go get this book, give yourself 20 minutes -- which is all it will take you to read it -- and immerse yourself in the story of how Caleb and Anna and their father wait to see if Sarah from Maine will become their second wife and mother. Told with the simplicity of a childr I saw a reference to this book in a "Books of the Century" list and realized I hadn't ever read it or watched the TV movies with Glenn Close. Here's what I suggest. When you're feeling in the mood for gentle, authentic uplift, go get this book, give yourself 20 minutes -- which is all it will take you to read it -- and immerse yourself in the story of how Caleb and Anna and their father wait to see if Sarah from Maine will become their second wife and mother. Told with the simplicity of a children's story but the grace and wisdom of the best adult novels, this is well deserving of the acclaim it has received.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Seema Rao

    A matter-of-fact woman becomes a mail order bride and changes the life of a young family. Gentle, subtle, sweet.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    I'm just a little too old to have read this book as a child, but it's one I have heard mentioned again and again. While looking for good Summer reading for my 9 y.o. daughter, this seemed to be on every "must read" list. But when we were browsing at the bookstore and I picked it up, we were both surprised at how small this book is. My Harry Potter loving daughter thought I was crazy to suggest a book she could probably read in an hour, and I admit I agreed, thinking she was too advanced a reader I'm just a little too old to have read this book as a child, but it's one I have heard mentioned again and again. While looking for good Summer reading for my 9 y.o. daughter, this seemed to be on every "must read" list. But when we were browsing at the bookstore and I picked it up, we were both surprised at how small this book is. My Harry Potter loving daughter thought I was crazy to suggest a book she could probably read in an hour, and I admit I agreed, thinking she was too advanced a reader and we should have looked for it 2 yrs. ago. Additionally, I read the back and thought, "really? a mail order bride story?" So back on the shelf it went. Fast forward to yesterday and I found myself with my son at the local library. There it was, one lonely copy calling out to me. The boy was happily sitting in a corner looking at magazines that guaranteed him a great score in Wii Skylander so I figured I could quickly read it before he was even ready to go home. I was wrong, but half way through and sucked into this sweet tale, I had to check it out and bring it home to finish later. So today, I sat down for 30 minutes and happily finished it up. It is hard to explain the joy I felt in the simplicity of this tale. It manages to say so much in so few words, truly the sign of a talented writer. I felt so genuinely connected to all four characters. And, most surprising of all, it was . . . romantic. So beautifully, quietly, maturely romantic in how this strong woman and these lonely children and this quiet man slowly and surely won each other's hearts. It felt real. In a world filled with vampire lust, or love supposedly born in a brutal "game", and worst of all domineering and sadistic excuses for romance, this book was a breath of fresh air. This tiny little story, intended for little girls, reminded me of all the things I love about my husband, my children and my own "plain" life. Reminded me of the small joys we feel in each other each and every day. My daughter is at camp right now. She will be home in a few days and I will probably lock her in her room and make her read this. She will whine a bit, but give in easily because she loves to read and this will only take her about an hour to get through. I wonder, with not a little sadness, if she will appreciate the tale Patricia MacLachlan is telling. What kinds of questions will she ask me about this woman willing to leave everything she knows to go to a strange place and marry a man that is equally strange to her? I hope she asks me a lot of questions, because that is what this is meant for. It is for opening a dialogue with our daughters about relationships, expectations and hard but real situations. And honest, if sometimes boring, love. I recommend this book for everyone, not just little girls. Go ahead, pick it up. It won't take long . . .

  28. 5 out of 5

    Becca Buckman

    Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan is the winner of the Newbery Medal. MacLachlan’s book fits into the historical fiction genre of junior books. In this story, a family is saddened by the tragedy of losing their loving mother and wife. Young Anna and Caleb wished for a mother to bring back the light of songs into their life on their quiet farm. The children and father are hopeful to find what is missing in their lives when they receive a letter from plain and tall Sarah Wheaton. a.) Re Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan is the winner of the Newbery Medal. MacLachlan’s book fits into the historical fiction genre of junior books. In this story, a family is saddened by the tragedy of losing their loving mother and wife. Young Anna and Caleb wished for a mother to bring back the light of songs into their life on their quiet farm. The children and father are hopeful to find what is missing in their lives when they receive a letter from plain and tall Sarah Wheaton. a.) Regretfully so, I was unable to find a strong point in the story Sarah Plain and Tall. b.) Although I feel as though the story is promising to many readers, in my opinion the language was not geared-toward the junior leveled readers. Sarah’s venture into the country to save a widow and his two mother-less children proved to lack motivation and, at times, be extremely boring. I understand her want to help the family as well as the family’s need for her services, but the story proved tedious in my opinion. c.) There were many parts of the story I had to reread to appropriately examine and understand what was going on. (I feel as though this happened because I was unresponsive to the story’s plot and feelings, and felt no connection to the reading) For example, “Sarah barked like a seal. And Lottie and Nick came running from the barn to jump up on Sarah and lick her face and make her laugh. Sarah stroked them and scratched their ears and it was quiet again” (p. 31). Also, the author skipped around with her thoughts. “Sarah nodded. ‘There is always something to miss, no matter where you are,” she said, smiling at Maggie. Rose and Violet fell asleep in the grass, their bellies full of meat and greens and biscuits. And when it was time to go, Papa and Matthew lifted them into the wagon to sleep on blankets” (p. 49). To me, the text jumped around in many places throughout the story. This reading is a great example to show teachers how important it is to choose the right story for students to read. Many instances will occur when students feel as though the stories I choose to read, or have them read, will provide little interest in their reading preference. I know it’s hard to satisfy each student’s hunger for attention and purpose for reading. Although this story did not fit my best interest, I still know many of my future students will enjoy the idea and theme carried through Sarah Wheaton.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Morgan

    Oh gosh! This book may be the sweetest thing ever. Some strange force compelled me to pick this up, even though I previously thought I hated it. My 2nd Grade teacher had read Sarah, Plain and Tall to my class, and all I remember is being bored out of my mind. Well, I blame that boredom on my shit attention span (which, honestly, hasn't gotten much better since 2nd Grade), because this book was GREAT. It's filled to the brim with wonderful stuff: charcoal drawings. fluffy sheep. haircuts. the sea. Oh gosh! This book may be the sweetest thing ever. Some strange force compelled me to pick this up, even though I previously thought I hated it. My 2nd Grade teacher had read Sarah, Plain and Tall to my class, and all I remember is being bored out of my mind. Well, I blame that boredom on my shit attention span (which, honestly, hasn't gotten much better since 2nd Grade), because this book was GREAT. It's filled to the brim with wonderful stuff: charcoal drawings. fluffy sheep. haircuts. the sea. flowers of all kinds. first words. baking bread. sliding down hay dunes. singing. swimming in cow ponds. "there is ice on the windows on winter mornings. we can draw sparkling pictures and we can see our breath in the air. papa builds a warm fire, and we bake hot biscuits and put on hundreds of sweaters." yellow bonnets. a cat named seal. chickens who aren't scared of anything. the first roses of the season. reminiscing. adopted families. finding new homes. Seriously, it's perfect. The writing isn't all that special, and neither is the story, really. It's more of a novella than an actual novel. But it just warms up your soul, like a big bowl of chicken noodle soup when you're feeling under the weather. I want to be Sarah so bad, and live in this book for the rest of my days. Or just live out my own life with Sarah in mind; she is brave, kind, loving, adventurous, headstrong. If I can be like Sarah, finding the good in any situation and making the most out of my life, taking leaps of faith and changing my everyday routine, I think I'd be a lot happier. (on a similar note: i need to adopt some chickens, grow a garden, and put little flowers in my braided hair) "And I slept, dreaming a perfect dream. The fields had turned to a sea that gleamed like sun on glass. And Sarah was happy." SOME COVER NOTES: Isn't that left cover just darling? It perfectly captures the book, and that's exactly how I picture Sarah (but also Glenn Close... for obvious reasons). The one on the right is the edition my teacher had in 2nd Grade. It's atrocious. No wonder I found the story boring, with that dull illustration staring back at me. I hope all the kids that read this book pick up the newer cover, because I doubt they'd want to read the story between the other cover.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jacqueline J

    The boys and I really loved this one. The writing is wonderful. The passages are lyrical and descriptive. This story really illustrates in an accessible manner the way that people moved in former times. Many people, mail order brides included, just packed up and went and hoped for the best and made the best of what they found.

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