Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Book Review: Sarah, Plain and Tall

After seeing the Sarah, Plain and Tall (1991) movie the desire to read the book popped into my head, and since I hadn't read it since being in school I was interested to see how the book and movie compared.

Synopsis: "Did Mama sing every day?"  Caleb asks his sister Anna.   "Every-single-day," she answers. "Papa sang, too."
Their mother died the day after Caleb was born. Their house on the prairie is quiet now, and Papa doesn't sing anymore. Then Papa puts an ad in the paper, asking for a wife, and he receives a letter from one Sarah Elisabeth Wheaton, of Maine. Papa, Anna, and Caleb write back. Caleb asks if she sings. Sarah decides to come for a month. She writes Papa: "I will come by train. I will wear a yellow bonnet. I am plain and tall, and Tell them I sing." Anna and Caleb wait and wonder. Will Sarah be nice? Will she like them? Will she stay?

Patricia MacLachlan
Author: Patricia MacLachlan was born in Cheyenne, Wyoming on March 3rd, 1938 and is now 74 years old. She is a best selling children's author and won the Newbery Medal in 1986 for Sarah, Plain and Tall. She wrote the screenplays for the Sarah, Plain and Tall, Skylark and Winter's End films. She had three children and now lives in Massachusetts with her husband.

Interesting Bits: Maine and Kansas are described perfectly. The interesting tale of a mail order bride. Many letters are written between Sarah and the family in Kansas so that they know a lot about each other before she even comes to visit them. The song Sumer Is Icumen In that was sung in the film is included in the book as is the song about Woolly Ragwart that Caleb sings. A heartwarming story of friendships beginning and a new family forming. Apparently the story is based on an actual event in Patricia MacLachlan's family which is really neat.

My Thoughts: I love the style of writing Patricia MacLachlan uses in this book, it's quite simple and with short sentences but the thoughts are expresses very well. This time when reading it the story really came alive for me and I understood even more about the differences between the east where Sarah came from and the west where she went and how important it was for all of them to find similarities between the two places. Perhaps I understood it more because of recently moving from Maine myself and meeting new friends here who describe their beloved Kansas so well (I've also met new friends who come from Wyoming where the author was born - what a coincidence!) and the differences would be great indeed.
Although Sarah herself is such an interesting strong character my favorite character has to be Caleb because he's quite precocious and always says the sweet things that are on his young mind. It surprised me a bit that the story is written from Anna's perspective but it's neat to see into her thoughts which aren't as stubbornly opposed to Sarah as in the film. The father, Jacob, is such a hard worker and a gentleman. It surprised me a bit at how much each member of the family seem to want everything to work out so Sarah will stay. Now I really want to read the other books in the Sarah, Plain and Tall series!

Sarah, Plain and Tall is such a classic tale, not very long (I read most of it in one evening), and so very sweet. I highly recommend it for children and families but also for anyone who enjoys a well written tale of prairie life.

Have you read Sarah, Plain and Tall?

Have you read any other books by Patricia MacLachlan?


Miss Elizabeth Bennet said...

Ah! I remember reading this in grade school. I don't remember much about it other than I liked it. I remembered that we watched the movie after we finished the book. I saw that it was on TV a while ago, but I didn't sit down to watch it. Next time it does though, I should.

Thanks for the review! It brought back some good memories for me! :-)

Melissa Jagears said...

It is a lovely book.

Elizabeth said...

I have read this book many times since I first read it as a child and I love it!

Great post!

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