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Showing 1-10 of 78 reviews(4 star). Show all reviews
on April 19, 2000
As I began to read Patricia McLachlan's Sarah, Plain and Tall Iwas instantly thrust into a time machine that took me back to asimpler time and place. A time of farms and wagons pulled byhorses. A time where there were no such things as computers, the Internet or any of the other distractions that we have today. This is how the Witting family lives their lives. Jacob is the father, Anna the older sister and Caleb, the youngest child. Anna and Caleb's mother died the day after she had Caleb and their father hasn't been the same since. Jacob puts an ad in the paper to find a wife and gets a response from Sarah from Maine. This book is a history lesson in disguise. I realize that all historical fiction is has an underlying history lesson, but this book in and its characters are very convincing. The lessons that the reader will learn are valuable and well taught. Sarah Plain and Tall takes place in 1910 and anyone who reads this book will learn about how people lived their life during this time. The book has many pieces of historical information. For example, it talks about how Sarah was wore very plain clothes, made by herself. It talked about how they had to use a plow pulled by a donkey to turn the fields. In one scene, a devastating storm blows through, and the Wittings must go into the barn to keep safe, but they also have to keep the animals safe. This depicts what a large role farm animals played in the livelihood of families during the early 1900's. The book also talks of how the children had to do real chores around the farm to keep it running smoothly. For example, they have to get up and help milk the cows, feed the animals and sometimes house maintenance. All of these are accurate depictions of life on a farm. Jan Susina's article, "American Girls Collection: Barbies with a Sense of History", argues that this series of books uses a nine-year-old girl to teach other girls about American history. Sarah, Plain and Tall is done in the same style of the books in the American Girl's Collection. It gives children a lesson in history, but it is hidden among an interesting story with adventure, drama and comedy. I think that this fact adds to the value of both of the books. If authors can make books that interest children and teach them something about their history, then they are truly effective authors. I think the audience intended for this book needs to be a little more mature than most of the other books we've looked at this semester. This book allows the children to use their imagination. They can imagine what Sarah looks like, how plain she really is. They can see the plows and the farm animals. Being able to see things in their head is a valuable skill for a child to have. I think that this book definitely gives children a glimpse into the past, like stepping onto a time machine. It definitely had more mature subject matter such as death of a parent, finding a new mate for the father figure and children's feelings of abandonment. Whatever the case, Sarah, Plain and Tall is a story for the ages which will be read for years to come.
33 comments58 of 63 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on April 19, 2001
Love Makes a Family
Sarah, Plain and Tall, is about a young girl named Anna who tells a love story about how her small family found their missing link to happiness. Anna's mother died at the birth of Caleb, Anna's younger brother. Since the death of her mother things have not seemed right around the prairie, there has been a longing for a mother figure. In the times of covered wagons and tumble weed, a man could write off for a mail order bride; which is what Jacob, Anna's father did. In response a young woman from Maine, named Sarah, showed up on the prairie in a yellow bonnet, she was plain and tall. Instantly the family fell in love with Sarah, she fit the roll of mother, nurturer, lover, and partner. Sarah completed the circle of love that made the family. Sarah, Plain and Tall is a love story, but not your typical love story. It is about the love that a young girl and her family crave for a mother. This story shows the importance of a female roll model in a family. Even though the family was fine and being taken care of, each other family members were missing something. Anna wanted someone to braid her hair, Caleb wanted someone to sing like his mother did, and Jacob wanted a partner to help him with raising his family and to give him affection. This is a love story, but a most unusual one. The structure is strong,and the characters firmly established. (Sutherland) This book shows the effect on how a mother type role is needed in the stability of a family. Once Sarah arrived, things in the family changed. Flowers were being hung up, children were taken care of, haircuts were given, and meals were always prepared. Everyone in the family became happy, and realized on what they had been missing out on since the death of their mother. Although, Sarah missed Maine but she herself found here roll to be satisfying. Sarah's character is a strong independent woman who is needed by three people who crave caring. A woman automatically has the instinct to be a mother. Sarah never realized hers until she found this family. Sarah had a simple life in Maine. She lived with her brother, who was about to be married. Sarah had never really had the opportunity to be needed. In Anna's family Sarah was needed and was loved. She became a mother and a partner over night; she fell in love with the family and her new life. " `We thought you might be thinking of leaving us,' I told her. `Because you miss the sea.' Sarah smiled. `No,' she said. `I will always miss my old home, but the truth of it is I would miss you more.'" The family was completed with Sarah in it, and Sarah's life was completed with the family in it. This book shows that no matter how complete a family is; a mother's love can make the family stable and secure. We all have voids in our lives, we just never know what they are until they are filled.
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on March 21, 2007
Sarah Plain and Tall is about two kids and their father. The two kids names` are Caleb and Anna. Caleb and Anna's father put ads up to find a mother. Then they found one. Her name was Sarah Elisabeth Wheaten. Caleb and Anna had a lot of fun with her.

The message is that you should just be happy where you are. That you are stuck with your family. I know that is the message because you would think of it when you are reading the book.

I liked Sarah Plain and Tall because it reminds me of my family because Caleb and Anna have a step-mom and I have a step-dad. I think people should read this book because it was a winner of the Newbery Medal.
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The rating system is severely flawed. This book deserves 4 and 1/2 stars, but no such rating exists. Just the same, "Sarah, Plain and Tall" is a short sweet story. Some have criticized MacLachlan's unrealistic depiction of a mail order bride that has a say in whether she stays or returns to her hometown. Arguments have been made that this depiction is not historically accurate and that women did not have such choices in the pioneer days of early America. I am willing to point out that the book itself is a little more complex. Though told with an adult sensibility, the primary eyes and ears of this tale are those of small children. To them, everything depends on whether or not Sarah stays. It is worth noting that Sarah herself never says that she is "deciding" on whether or not she is staying. Nor does the father offer any sort of worry or concern along those lines (unless you count his initial reluctance to teach Sarah how to drive a carriage). My own personal theory is that this idea is solely in the heads of the children. The fact that Sarah does not immediately marry their father does throw this interpretation into a little confusion, but it's far easier to believe that Sarah "does things her way" and wants to wait a little while before marrying someone she doesn't know, rather than believe she would have any real choice in the matter.

I have been told that boys would never voluntarily read this book on their own because it is (horrors) pink. Furthermore, it has a girl's name in the title. And admittedly such things would be highly suspect to most (not all) little boys. Just the same, I believe boys will get just as much out of this story as girls would. I recommend "Sarah, Plain and Tall" to any child that is into stories of orphan children finding a home. Though a different reading level, it wouldn't pair badly with "Pictures of Hollis Woods" or even "Bud, Not Buddy". Alternatively, it would also go well with homestead stories like the Little House books or "Caddie Woodlawn". Short simple chapters make it a great read aloud tale for the younger set. Enjoy!
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on September 27, 2006
Sarah, Plain and Tall is a heartfelt story about a family who lost a mother and wife. Jacob, Caleb and Anna's father, must make the decision to place an ad for a wife and mother for the best for all of them. Sarah, a young lady from Maine, returns letters back and forth to the whole family getting to know them better. She decides to come down to the prairies of Kansas from the sea for a month to see if this is a life she could become accustomed to. When the children see the yellow bonnet coming down the road, excitement was in the air along with anticipation. Would she decide to stay and marry Jacob, or would this place be too small and too far away from the sea for Sarah.

Maclachlan chooses to have the young daughter, Anna tell this story to get a better understanding of what young children had to go through back in the prairie days. (Around the late 1800s) Anna shows us the inside picture of what is like to have to suddenly lose a mother, say hello to a new brother, and have the heart and maturity to accept and love a new mother.

The theme is a lesson for all to learn. Through pain and tragedy, great new things can arise. Everyone has pain in their lives, whether it is a death or something else. Choosing to fall apart and never sing again or to become stronger and better because of the situation is the outcome. Anna shows how strong she had to be to lose her mother and still be pretty much the woman in that family. Sarah shows how is hard to say goodbye to family and one way of life. She realizes that now it would be just as hard to leave her new family. Yes, she will forever miss the sea and her brother, but nothing could replace the dunes, animals, and family that she now has in her new life forever.
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on January 10, 2005
Sarah, Plain and Tall is a great book. This book is by Patricia MacLachlan. The book is 58 pages long. Patricia MacLachlan also wrote Through Grandpa's Eyes, Arthur, For the Very First Time, Tomorrow's Wizard, Mama One, Mama Two, Cassie Binegar, Seven Kisses in a Row, Unclaimed Treasures, The Facts and Fictions of Minna Pratt, Three Names, Skylark, and All the Places to Love. I really liked this book.

The book Sarah, Plain and Tall is about Sarah, the Maggie, Jacob, the father, Caleb, Jacob's son, and Ann, Jacob's daughter. When Caleb was born, the next day his mother died. Caleb now grew up and he was living in the fields with Jacob and Ann. Jacob came home from work and he toll Ann and Caleb he had made an advertisement in the newspaper. The advertisement said that Jacob was looking for a wife and a mother of two kids. After a couple of days, a Maggie from Maine named Sarah wrote a letter to Jacob and said she would be more than happy to be a mother and a wife. Jacob and Sarah were sending each other a lot of letters than Sarah wrote her last letter to Jacob. She said she is going to take a train to Jacob's closest train station. She said to Jacob to come and pick her up. She will be wearing a yellow bonnet. She will be plain and tall. Sarah also brought her cat Seal and presents for Ann and Caleb. When Sarah came to the house she was very happy and gave Ann and Caleb their presents. They were all very happy. She learned how to ride a horse and she played with Caleb and Ann a lot. Still, Sarah missed the sea, and the cool breeze, and her brother too, but she was happy to live with Ann, Jacob and Caleb.

I really liked how the author described the setting. One sentence the author used was "She came though the green grass fields that bloomed with Indian paintbrush, red and orange, and blue-eyed grass. When the author described the fields I pictured the field very good in my head. I was never confused where the characters were.

I also really like the author's style. I think it was very exiting. Everything was clear and there were a lot of details. I understood everything. When they were talking about the dunes at first I didn't know what a dune was so she explained it and then continued.

I thought the book was clear, exiting, great, and interesting. I really liked the book. It had a lot of feelings and emotions in it. I would really recommend this book to you. You should read it.
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on January 19, 2002
An artist named Sarah came to live with a family who did not have a mother. She started painting pictures of the sea and sang songs about nature with the family every evening after supper. One day she asked if she could borrow the horse and carriage to go to town. The family was unsure if Sarah was going to return from her shopping trip. Sarah returned with paint in the colors of the sea which were blue, green, and grey. She used these colors in her paintings which she hung in the home and the barn. Sarah fell in love with the father of the two children and in the end she married him and they lived as a family. The End.
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on February 20, 2002
Do you like action, comic and a little bit of romance if you do, read the book Sarah Plain and Tall because it is a great book.
The book is about a man that puts an ad in the newspaper saying that he is single and he would like a wife. Then Sarah comes along. When Sarah gets there she is so sad because she missies her family. A big storm comes along after she gets there and her and the family stays in a barn for the night. If you want to know more about the book there is only one more thing to do. GO GET THE BOOK!. I highly recommend this book to all ages.
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on February 19, 2001
MacLachlan's book takes us back to a time when a man could put an ad in the newspaper and order himself a bride.
Papa, a farmer in the western plains, has been widowed since the birth of his second child, Caleb. He advertises for a wife and gets Sarah, plain and tall (and smart and fun). She agrees to stay and take care of Papa, Caleb, and Anna, although she misses the Maine coast where she grew up.
The plot, like life on a 19th century farm, moves slowly and simply along. I was suprised and touched to learn how eager the children were to make Sarah happy and comfortable in her new life.
The story was very short and easy to read, and would be of interest to children in elementary school.
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on July 19, 2011
Sarah, Plain and Tall is a wonderful children's literature book written by Patricia MacLachan. The story takes place on small farm home. The story starts off describing how Anna and Caleb's mother died after giving birth to Caleb. With their mother gone, there was not much singing and happiness that occurred in the small farm home. The two young children longed for their house to be filled with singing and longed for a mother figure in their lives. Their widowed father also needed someone to help him with the children and chores around the house. To meet the needs of his children and his own, the children's father decides to order a mail-order-bride to come live with them.
Along came Sarah, plain and tall. Sarah decided to come to the farm because she knew it was time to find a life of her own. Her brother was recently married and now had a new life with his wife leaving little time for Sarah. Sarah was not used to life on a farm and she often talked about missing her brother and the life she shared with him by the sea. Through out the story the children fear that Sarah misses her brother and the sea way too much. They fear that one day she will leave them to return back to her life by the sea. They strive to do their best to in order to keep Sarah at their farm. One day Sarah sets off for town and the children fear they may never see her again.
This is a great story that represents the true meaning of love and family. It is an easy read chapter book for young students who are in the beginning stages of reading. It would be a great book to tie in lesson themes based on the idea of what life was like for families and farmers living during the 19th century. This book also presents a great opportunity for students to compare and contrast life of the children in the 19th century to children today using a venn-diagram. Students also have the opportunity to use creative writing to tell their own story about their family and home life after reading this story.
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