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Sarah, Plain and Tall (Sarah, Plain and Tall Saga Book 1) [Kindle Edition]

Patricia MacLachlan
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (336 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $5.99
Kindle Price: $5.12
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Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers

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Book Description

"Did Mama sing every day?" Caleb asks his sister Anna.

"Every-single-day," she answers. "Papa sang, too."

This 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.

Supports the Common Core State Standards

Editorial Reviews Review

MacLachlan, author of Unclaimed Treasures, has written an affecting tale for children. In the late 19th century a widowed midwestern farmer with two children--Anna and Caleb--advertises for a wife. When Sarah arrives she is homesick for Maine, especially for the ocean which she misses greatly. The children fear that she will not stay, and when she goes off to town alone, young Caleb--whose mother died during childbirth--is stricken with the fear that she has gone for good. But she returns with colored pencils to illustrate for them the beauty of Maine, and to explain that, though she misses her home, "the truth of it is I would miss you more." The tale gently explores themes of abandonment, loss and love.

The most-watched made-for-television movie of the 1990s (50 million viewers upon first broadcast in 1991), this fine adaptation of Patricia MacLachlan's novel stars Glenn Close as Sarah, a Maine schoolteacher who responds to a Kansas farmer's newspaper ad seeking a bride. Set in 1910, the story follows Sarah's trial run as stepmother to the children of the widowed Jacob Witting (Christopher Walken). The tough part of the experiment is the conflicting expectations the would-be couple have over Sarah's role in the household. The kids, too, have their doubts about a substitute for their mother, and Jacob isn't ready, emotionally, for a new beginning. But in short order the strong-willed Sarah brings happiness and vitality into the house, and love and understanding eventually blossom between the two lonely adults. Everything is right about this Hallmark production, from a bright script cowritten by MacLachlan to Glenn Jordan's sensitive direction and a pair of first-rate leads making every moment worth watching. A wholesome tale from the heartland, this is a good movie for any viewing situation, from an audience of one to an entire family. --Tom Keogh

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Small Book with a Big Heart January 29, 2002
Caleb and Annie are two young children who have had no mother for several years. Then one day, Sarah, a lady from Maine, answers an advertisement their father, Jacob, put in a newspaper, giving new hope to the family of three. Will she be the one to fill the emptiness in their hearts and the silence in their home, at last?
Some adjustments _will_ have to be made first. Sarah has to get used to living away from the ocean that she has known and loved all her life. Jacob has to get used to having a headstrong wife who is just as good at carpentry as he is. The children have to get used to a new and unorthodox mother. Yet their hope that everything will work out always shines through.
"Sarah, Plain and Tall" is a story about people learning to live together and become a family simply because they've grown to love each other. It is also about seeing both new things with old eyes and old things with new eyes. The reader will enjoy this short, joy-filled period in the lives of these characters, whether they are learning how to swim, sliding down haystacks, or tossing cut hair to birds.
Patricia MacLachlan uses very simple language, which only highlights her poet's gift of saying volumes and painting landscapes with a few well-chosen words. The images in the novel are as potent as images in poetry, even though everything is in prose. Every last word is meaningful.
I need only think of "Sarah, Plain and Tall" to remember that sometimes the simplest children's stories are the best.
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56 of 61 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The History in Sarah, Plain and Tall April 19, 2000
By A Customer
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. Read more ›
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Love Makes A Family 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.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Hallmark made-for-TV movie, but oh boy! January 7, 2004
Format:VHS Tape
The book of the same title was incredibly thin but packed such a powerful punch that it's no wonder it was made into a movie, and it's not at all cheesy. Set in 1910, it's the story of the Kansas frontier, and of Sarah, a spinster schoolteacher from Maine who answered a newspaper ad placed by a widower seeking a wife to mother his children. Watching the wariness with which all the people approach each other and the lonely situation is emotional. Sarah, of completely different background, soon wins over the sad little household, and slowly a certain and very special kind of love develops.
Perfect for family viewing, okay for kids of all ages.
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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."

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