|Sarah Plain and Tall by P.J. Lynch|
"I shook my head, turning the white stone over and over in my hand. I wished everything was as perfect as the stone. I wished that Papa and Caleb and I were perfect for Sarah. I wished we had a sea of our own."
In 2009 I set out to read and review as many American award winning books as I could. A few of these titles had made it across 'the pond,' and all the way to the island of Cyprus, which is where I grew up. However, there were so many books that I had never even heard of. One of these books was a slender little volume, a chapter book with an unassuming cover, which had won the Newbery Award. I confess that I didn't have high expectations as I started to read Sarah Plain and Tall on December 9th, 2009. After reading only a few pages I realized that I had found an extraordinary story, a story that I would never forget. That day I learned that books with around a hundred pages can be just as powerful as ones with three hundred pages. I discovered that in the hands of a master, even the simplest of phrases and sentences can have the power to deeply move a reader.
The author of this story, Patricia MacLachlan, went on to write four more books about Sarah and her family, and I read them all with great pleasure and no small amount of awe. Sarah Plain and Tall was adapted into a television film starring Glenn Close, and one-act children's musical.
Patricia MacLachlan left us on March 31st. She will be greatly missed by the people who knew and loved her, and by the many authors whom she encouraged and supported. She gifted us dozens of books, many of which I have read and reviewed over the years. On the Through the Looking Glass Patricia MacLachlan Page you will find a biography of this amazing women, and a links to those of her books that I have reviewed.
For ages 7 and up
HarperCollins, 1985, 0064402053
Anna and Caleb’s Mama died the day after Caleb was born. It has been hard being without a Mama for so long, but now Papa has advertised in the paper for a wife and Sarah from Maine has answered.
Letters go between the family on the prairie and the young woman living by the sea. The children worry that Sarah won’t like them, won’t like their simple little house, won’t like Papa, won’t like the prairie where there is no sea and little water – just grass and sky.
Sarah agrees to come and visit the family for a month “to see” and she arrives in the spring. Anna hopes desperately that they can all be “perfect” for Sarah so that she will stay. She wishes that they had “a sea of our own,” which would make Sarah miss Maine less.
Sarah MacLachlan superbly captures the anxiety and tension that the children experience - the fear that they will loose their chance to have a mother at long last. With just the right words she brings the spirit of the prairie and the personalities of the characters to life so that we can see the grass, smell the dust, and experience the worry that flows through Anna and Caleb’s hearts. Full of poignancy, hope and love, this is a story that is timeless, and it will resonate with both children and adults.