Monday, December 12, 2011

Book Nook - Sarah, Plain and Tall

Sarah, Plain and Tall written by Patricia MacLachlan:

This is a quiet, gentle little book that won the Newbery Award in 1986.  In the story, Anna and Caleb lost their mother when she died a day after Caleb's birth.  The two children discuss her, Anna sharing her memories with Caleb, Caleb asking question after question.  Their father has recently put an ad in a newspaper for a "mail order bride" (although that term is not used in the book).  Sarah, a woman who lives in Maine, responds to the ad and starts a correspondence with the family.  Eventually, she comes for a visit to see how things go.  Anna and Caleb are fascinated by Sarah's life by the sea, while at the same time hope that she likes staying with them and will choose to stay permanently.  In fact, once Sarah arrives, the entire plot is simply the issue of will Sarah stay.

This book is very different from many of the popular choices kids have today.  There is no action, no magic, few characters, the pace is slow and it's incredibly short (58 pages).  This story has nothing up its sleeve, so to speak.  It's a very gentle telling, almost poetic really.  There is a lot of description of the sea and the place where Sarah lives.  As the family gets to know Sarah, they hope she's happy being there.  I personally enjoyed the simplicity of the book and thought it was a refreshing change from the norm.  My Bachsters had mixed feelings about it, the 6-year old enjoyed it more than our oldest DD (I don't think Little Dude joined in any of the readings).

From a mother's perspective, this book saddened me.  The scene in which Papa has his arms wrapped around Sarah, and Anna reflects that that is how he used to hold Mama just about brought me to tears.  To imagine someone in the place where you should be, with your family, is heartbreaking.  But if that day ever came, wouldn't it be nice to know that there was someone who could bring joy back to their lives, and love and (in the case of Sarah)


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