18 May 2014

Sarah, Plain and Tall: 1986 Newbery Award Winner

In March of 2014, I started a new undertaking: reading every single Newbery Medal Winner book.  A number of them I have read in the past, but I am reading them with fresh eyes,and reviewing them for others. I am not reading them in order, as some will require some effort on my part to find them all.  Want to keep track of which books I read?  Check them out at Confessions of a Wannabe Reader!

Drawing of a girl watching a woman cut a boy's hair
Cover of the book - used for identification purposes only under the fair use clause

Sarah Elizabeth Wheaton: Plain and tall

Anna and Caleb Witting live a lonely life on the prairie, and have ever since their mother died the day after Caleb was born.  Their father, Jacob, us to be happy, but now he's just as lonely as they are.  So when he places an ad for a bride and a mother in the newspapers back East, they want to know who will answer.  Sarah Wheaton, a plain and tall woman from Maine, answers them.  She soon comes for a month-long visit with her cat, Seal, and the family learns just what a wonderful woman she is.  But will she stay?

This short novella, Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan, was perhaps the very first Newbery Award book I ever read.  I loved it then and even recall seeing the movie one day in class.  I loved it again as I read it under the maple tree in the front yard of my apartment building.  It is a touching story about loss.  Anna and Caleb have lost their mother, and fear losing Sarah if she doesn't like living on the prairie.  Sarah misses her brother and the sea, as she lived on the coast of Maine.  But their is also love, and warmth and growth. The story is very short, but the story is sweet and very touching.  

Like Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books, this story touches on the lives of those living on the prairie in the 19th century.  It doesn't sugarcoat the hardships, as there is a death mentioned in the first few pages of the story and a severe storm that comes through the farm.  But there is also strength in its pages, as Sarah and the children learn and grow together.  The story is a great piece of historical fiction and a fast read.

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