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Grandfather's Dance (Sarah, Plain and Tall) Hardcover – September 5, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 3-6–This conclusion of the Sarah, Plain and Tall stories gathers the whole cast of characters for a prairie wedding. Changes in the family are reflected in the changing times; Papa goes to town to buy a car to transport his guests. Fourth-grade Cassie narrates the tale of welcoming the relatives and preparing the celebration for her sister, Anna. But her focus isn't on the bride and groom. Partly, she ponders why people would want to get married; her dream companion would be one of her dogs. She closely observes Grandfather and Jack, the oldest and youngest members of the family. Their special bond shows up in the way Jack talks, walks, and behaves like Grandfather. Cassie observes how Grandfather is preparing for death. Even the sad ending highlights the story's overall theme of family ties as they weave through generations. MacLachlan maneuvers the reminders of previous plots fairly gracefully, allowing the book to stand on its own. As before, her beautifully straightforward language reflects the manner of the hardworking people of the Great Plains. Although at a reading level for early chapter-book readers, this story's themes make it appropriate as well for upper elementary readers.–Pat Leach, Lincoln City Libraries, NE
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Gr. 4-6. A prairie wedding and then a funeral bring together extended family and friends in the fifth and final volume in the historical fiction series that started with the exquisite Newbery Medal Book Sarah Plain and Tall (1985). Once again, heartwarming is the word for the story, which is always true to a child's viewpoint. The narrator here is Sarah's daughter, Cassie, a fourth-grader in the prairie school of six pupils, and the core drama is the close, teasing bond between Cassie's little brother, Jack, and their stubborn, cranky grandfather, whose health is failing. For newcomers to the series, the large cast that gathers for the wedding may be hard to keep straight, but the plainspoken dialogue, especially between Grandfather and Jack, is elemental, and the warm, quiet story of love and grief will send readers back to the other books in the touching saga. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 450L (What's this?)
  • Series: Sarah, Plain and Tall
  • Hardcover: 96 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; First Edition edition (September 5, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006027560X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060275600
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,371,814 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Patricia MacLachlan was born on the prairie, and to this day carries a small bag of prairie dirt with her wherever she goes to remind her of what she knew first. She is the author of many well-loved novels and picture books, including Sarah, Plain and Tall, winner of the Newbery Medal; its sequels, Skylark and Caleb's Story; and Three Names, illustrated by Mike Wimmer. She lives in western Massachusetts.

In Her Own Words..."One thing I've learned with age and parenting is that life comes in circles. Recently, I was having a bad time writing. I felt disconnected. I had moved to a new home and didn't feel grounded. The house, the land was unfamiliar to me. There was no garden yet. Why had I sold my old comfortable 1793 home? The one with the snakes in the basement, mice everywhere, no closets. I would miss the cold winter air that came in through the electrical sockets."

"I had to go this day to talk to a fourth-grade class, and I banged around the house, complaining. Hard to believe, since I am so mild mannered and pleasant, isn't it? What did I have to say to them? I thought what I always think when I enter a room of children. What do I know?"

"I plunged down the hillside and into town, where a group of fourth-grade children waited for me in the library, freshly scrubbed, expectant. Should I be surprised that what usually happens did so? We began to talk about place, our living landscapes. And I showed them my little bag of prairie dirt from where I was born. Quite simply, we never got off the subject of place. Should I have been so surprised that these young children were so concerned with place, or with the lack of it, their displacement? Five children were foster children, disconnected from their homes. One little boy's house had burned down, everything gone. 'Photographs, too,' he said sadly. Another told me that he was moving the next day to place he'd never been. I turned and saw the librarian, tears coming down her face."

"'You know,' I said. 'Maybe I should take this bag of prairie dirt and toss it into my new yard. I'll never live on the prairie again. I live here now. The two places could mix together that way!' 'No!' cried a boy from the back. 'Maybe the prairie dirt will blow away!' And then a little girl raised her hand. 'I think you should put that prairie dirt in a glass bowl in your window so that when you write you can see it all the time. So you can always see what you knew first.'"

"When I left the library, I went home to write. What You Know First owes much to the children of the Jackson Street School: the ones who love place and will never leave it, the ones who lost everything and have to begin again. I hope for them life comes in circles, too."

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
5 star
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See all 22 customer reviews
A good read aloud or easy book for young reader .
margo p
I can honestly say that this is the first series of books that my daughter can't put down.
D. Krahnke
Who else but Patricia MacLachlan, author of "Sarah, Plain and Tall"!
E. R. Bird

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on September 12, 2006
Format: Hardcover
All right, class. Altogether now. How does one go about getting kids interested in historical fiction? Any ideas? I heard somebody mentioning starting the kids on that kind of thing early on. Very good! It's an easy enough task to read historical picture books to children before they can read on their own, certainly. Just load your bookshelves with some Patricia Polacco, some Patricia McKissack, and maybe a dash of Allan Say for good measure. The minute the children want to read their own books, however, you may find filling their historical fiction needs a bit trickier. If it isn't related to "The Time Warp Trio", parents often find their bookshelves sadly lacking in that whole early chapter book historical fiction genre. So what author exists to rescue you from this dire plight? Who else but Patricia MacLachlan, author of "Sarah, Plain and Tall"! The series that begin with this pleasantly slim novel has added yet another title to its mix. "Grandfather's Dance" follows the Witting family's adventures as everyone prepares for Anna, narrator of the first book, and her wedding.

Cassie is delighted. Her older sister Anna is getting married and everything in the home is far more exciting and unusual as a result. Usually Anna lives quietly with just her mother and father, her younger brother Jack, and their grandfather alongside the prairie. Now, however, three aunts are coming to stay, to say nothing of an uncle and a host of other relatives for the festivities. Alongside this large story comes the small tale of Jack's love for his grandfather and Cassie's love for the both of them. Grandfather knows that his time is coming soon, and when at last he dies Cassie must help Jack through his grief into acceptance.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Terri Rowan on September 5, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Cassie Witting has a little brother named John Jacob Witting, but everyone calls him "Jack," and he calls himself "Doggie." In the months before a big wedding, Cassie watches the relationship between her little brother and their grandfather. She is alternately amused and annoyed by Jack's constant aping of Grandfather's speech and movements. So is Grandfather.

As the wedding draws near and relatives begin to arrive, everyone is caught up in the excitement. But Cassie is an observant youngster and records things about her brother and grandfather. She notices Grandfather's temper growing shorter, even as his love grows larger. Despite what she notes, Cassie is still a child, and there are things she isn't capable of seeing until too late.

In this sweet closing to a beloved series, a family's turning point takes place before a young girl's innocent eyes. Rather than dwelling on the sadness of a special person's passing, this story is a celebration of all he was to his family. This sharing of endearment and loss is lovingly written in a way fans of the series will cherish. Its gentle treatment of death will be especially soothing to children who have lost grandparents. The sadness really can be tempered by the wonderful memories created between family members.

Young, or not-so-young, fans of the "Sarah Plain and Tall" series will find a great deal to love about this book. It earns its place next to its predecessors.

Reviewed by Christina Wantz Fixemer


4½-BALLOONS for WUAT Kids!; 5-STARS for Amazon
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By J. Stith on February 10, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Just as spring begins on the prairie, young Cassie Witting's life is about to change. Cassie's older sister, Anna, is getting married. This event is the stimulus for a flurry of activity. In addition to wedding preparations, the Witting family must also get ready to receive family from back east, her mama's brother William and a collection of sisters referred to as "the aunts." Even her brother Caleb will return from school for the event. Cassie is excited about her sister's wedding. She contemplates what it might be like to get married one day and resolves that her dog would be the perfect husband. In the midst of all the arrangements and family reunions, Cassie notices that Grandfather has become short tempered. Her younger brother Jack (who refers to himself as "Doggie") loves Grandfather better than anyone else. This is evident by the way Jack imitates his Grandfather's every move. Cassie doesn't understand the significance of Grandfather's request to have Cassie dress up and have a pretend wedding so that he can attend. Cassie eventually realizes the reason for Grandfather's strange behavior.

Reading this book, one is privy to tender family moments, sharing both happy and difficult times. MacLachlan uses a string of symbols to signal the changes the family is experiencing. Among the symbols are the new family car, Sarah's wedding veil, and Grandfather's black hat. The reader recognizes the family's sense of togetherness. This gives them the strength they need to weather the changing seasons of their own lives and the "life" of the Witting family.

Although part of a collection of stories beginning with Sarah, Plain and Tall, the reader need not have read previous books to appreciate this touching final installment in the collection.
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