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Caleb's Story (Sarah, Plain and Tall Series #3)

Caleb's Story (Sarah, Plain and Tall Series #3)

4.7 15
by Patricia MacLachlan

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Anna has done something terrible. She has given me a journal to fill.

It's your job now," Anna says as she hands Caleb her journals, asking him to continue writing the family story. But Sarah, Jacob, Anna, Caleb, and their new little sister, Cassie, have already formed a family, and Caleb fears there will be nothing left to write about. That is,


Anna has done something terrible. She has given me a journal to fill.

It's your job now," Anna says as she hands Caleb her journals, asking him to continue writing the family story. But Sarah, Jacob, Anna, Caleb, and their new little sister, Cassie, have already formed a family, and Caleb fears there will be nothing left to write about. That is, before Cassie discovers a mysterious old man in the barn, and everything changes. Everyone is excited about the arrival of a new family member—except for Jacob, who holds a bitter grudge. Only the special love of Caleb, and the gift he offers, can help to mend the pain of the past.

Editorial Reviews

ALA Booklist
“Spare yet elegant prose.”
The Horn Book
“A welcome continuation of a well-loved story.”
bn.com review
The Barnes & Noble Review
From award-winning author Patricia MacLachlan comes another installment in the heartwarming saga that began with Sarah, Plain and Tall. This time out the story is told through the eyes of young Caleb, who is handed the duty of writing in the family journal when older sister Anna moves to town. At first Caleb fears he will have nothing of interest to write about, but then a mysterious man named John shows up on the farm, throwing the Witting family dynamic completely out of kilter.

The mystery man turns out to be Jacob's father, who was thought to be dead. Caleb and his younger sister Cassie are delighted to discover that they have a grandfather, and Sarah happily welcomes him into the household, as well. But their joy is tempered by Jacob's obvious anger with the old man, an anger that stems from the fact that John walked out the door when Jacob was a lad, never to return. Still reeling from the emotional pain of that abandonment, Jacob can't forgive his father for never writing so much as one letter of explanation.

Grandfather offers nothing in the way of apologies or explanations, and Caleb soon discovers that the old man is hiding a dark secret. Sarah despairs over Jacob's refusal to forgive, worrying that the two men are running out of time. For it is clear to anyone who cares to notice that Grandfather isn't in the best of health. It will take a startling revelation, a young boy's determination, and a terrible tragedy before the Witting household can finally begin to heal. MacLachlan sets her story amid the bitter, unforgiving cold of a prairie winter, letting it serve as a metaphor for the equally frigid corners of Jacob's heart. But just as the winter's chill must eventually give way to the sun's heat, so must Jacob's heart begin to thaw beneath the warming rays of his family's love. (Beth Amos)

Fans of the incomparable Sarah, Plain and Tall will want to read more about the family created when Sarah moved from Maine to Nebraska to marry Anna and Caleb's father, Jacob. An older Anna, who is now moving to town, leaves Caleb a blank notebook and the task of writing "one page at a time." After Caleb finds a strange man in the barn, the family must confront events from the past. Now Caleb has both a story and a tangle of emotions to record in this quiet, touching novel about families and forgiveness.
—Kathleen Odean

Publishers Weekly
Taking over the reins from his sister Anna, who narrated Sarah, Plain and Tall and Skylark, Caleb describes the event in this heartwarming third installment, in which Jacob is reunited with his father. As the novel opens, readers meet Cassie, the baby whom Sarah carries in Skylark; the country is at war in Europe; and Anna leaves home to work for a doctor in town and gives Caleb the responsibility of recording the family events. While Jacob drives his older daughter to town, Cassie spots a man on the property. Thinking it's one of Cassie's imaginary friends, Caleb ignores her until he sees the man for himself. When Jacob returns, the mystery of the man's identity is revealed, and wounds from the past begin to slowly heal. In an uplifting subplot, Caleb discovers why Jacob's father did not correspond with his son all the years he was away and begins to set things right. The narrative cribs liberally from Anna's entries in Skylark, but fans of the first two books will enjoy learning more about this resourceful and loving family. Ages 8-10. (Oct.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
Patricia MacLachlan's beloved historical novel Sarah Plain and Tall won the Newbery in 1986. Caleb's Story the third book in this series, is told by Anna's younger brother. Again, MacLachlan uses a spare, poetic style to reveal a strong sense of feelings, time and place. Caleb writes of a harsh Midwestern winter when flu and WW I rage, and his grandfather appears at the family farm. Years ago the old man deserted Caleb's father and hasn't communicated since. Their animosity is palpable as is Caleb's desire to bridge the rift. Caleb, who writes and sees with his heart, realizes that his grandfather is sick and can neither read, nor write. He has the courage to confront the surly old man and work to solve the problems. Moods and situations vary surprisingly often in this short book. There is relief in the antics of young Cassie, Caleb's sister; a comfort in catching up with characters that readers have grown to love; and finally, seeing the characters unite to overcome struggles. The book is a testimony to the statement that great things really do come in small packages. 2001, HarperCollins, $14.95. Ages 8 to 10. Reviewer: Susie Wilde
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-In this third book in the series begun in Sarah, Plain and Tall (HarperCollins, 1985), Caleb is given the responsibility of writing down everything that happens on the farm now that his older sister Anna has gone to live in town to finish school. At first, he thinks there will be nothing to write about, but when an old man appears in the middle of winter, the family's quiet life is suddenly disrupted. The stranger turns out to be Caleb's grandfather, who left when the boy's father, Jacob, was young. While Jacob allows him to stay, he refuses to forgive or even speak to the man. Caleb slowly realizes that his grandfather is illiterate, and he teaches him how to read and write. It takes his efforts and a near-tragedy to reconcile the differences between the men. Readers who are new to the Witting family will quickly become acquainted with the events of the past through the excerpts of Anna's journals that Caleb shares with his grandfather. Despite some heavy elements, MacLachlan manages to provide some lighter moments and humor through Cassie, the baby who was about to be born at the end of Skylark (HarperCollins, 1994), and who is now a lively and inquisitive child. This is an excellent work of historical fiction, a satisfying sequel, and an inspiring tale about love and forgiveness.-Ashley Larsen, Woodside Library, CA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Newbery Medalist MacLachlan continues the story of the Witting family, with the believable characters readers have come to know and love from Sarah, Plain and Tall (1985) and its sequel, Skylark (1994). The family has changed, as Sarah and her husband Jacob now have a daughter named Cassie, a feisty, outspoken little girl of four or five, and older daughter Anna is living in town to attend school and work for the local doctor. Another major change in family dynamics occurs when Jacob's long-lost father suddenly appears. He is a worn-out, cantankerous old man with nowhere to go but his old farm, which he abandoned, along with his family, when Jacob was a boy. The bitter conflict between father and son is the heart of the narrative, this time told in first-person (and recorded in his own journal) by Caleb, who also copies passages from his sister Anna's journals from the previous two stories to help him understand his family. Sarah remains the rock, urging her husband to forgive his father and caring for all of them in her wise, understated way. MacLachlan's appreciative readers will savor this new addition to the chronicle of a delightful family, and many will be hoping for another volume in the series so we can learn precocious Cassie's story as she grows older. (Fiction. 8-10)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Sarah, Plain and Tall Series , #3
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.40(d)
290L (what's this?)
Age Range:
6 - 10 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

“Come find me, Caleb!” called my little sister, Cassie.

She ran out the door and down the steps. Lottie barked and followed her. Nick was older than Lottie. He stayed on the porch and watched.

“I don't have time. I mean it, Cassie!”

Cassie ignored me the way she always did when she wanted something.

“And don't look!” she called.

I sighed and walked after her. I covered my eyes with my hand, but through my fingers I could see Cassie run to the barn.

“One, two, three,” I counted.

“Slower,” she cried.

“Four . . . five . . . five and a half.”

Papa was hitching Bess to the wagon.

“Don't be long,” he said. “Anna's almost ready to leave.”

“Don't worry. This won't take long, Papa.”

“I don't know, Caleb. Cassie's getting better at hiding.”

I laughed.

“At least you don't see her feet sticking out anymore. Six, seven, eight, nine, ten,” I called.

I could hear Cassie laughing, but I couldn't see her. I walked into the barn. It was cool and dark and quiet. A winter sharp smell filled the space.


There was no answer. There was a time when Cassie would answer me and give away her hiding place -- she couldn't help it. Not today.

May, my favorite of all our horses, was in her stall. I reached over and touched her nose, and she nickered at me. I could see her breath in the cold air. There was silence, the only sound the sound of May's breathing. Then I heard Lottie's bark outside, and Cassie's voice.

“Cassie? I hear you!”

I turned. Cassie tried to run by the barn door, and I rushed out and caught her, making her squeal.

“I've got you,Pal!”

Cassie laughed and we began to walk back to the house, Lottie leaping and jumping in front of us. Cassie reached up and took my hand, her face suddenly serious.

“There's a man.”

“What man?”

“Behind the barn,” said Cassie. “He's wrapped in a green blanket. He asked me about Papa.”

I smiled.

“You and your imaginary friends, Cassie.”

She scowled at me.

“There's a man,” she insisted.

“You're stubborn,” I told her. “Like Sarah.”

“Like Mama,” Cassie corrected me. “You could call her Mama.”

“I could,” I said. “But you know the story, Cassie. When she first came here Anna and I called her Sarah. We will always call her Sarah.”

“I will call her Mama,” said Cassie.

I picked her up -- she was so light -- and Cassie put her head on my shoulder as we walked to the house.

“A man,” she whispered in my ear."

“Do you have everything, Anna?”

Sarah wrapped biscuits in a towel.

“Give these to Sam.”

Papa looked over Sarah's shoulder.

“Some,” he said. “Not all.”

Sarah smiled.

“Papa never gets enough biscuits,” said Anna.

Anna tied up some letters with a long ribbon. Min, our orange cat, leaped up, trying to catch the ends. Her mother, Seal, slept in a basket by the fire, opening her eyes every so often to check on all of us.

“Justin's letters?” asked Sarah.

Anna nodded.

“I read them over and over,” she said softly. “Sometimes I feel he's standing next to me.”

Everyone was quiet. I used to tease Anna about her boyfriend, Justin. I called him Just-In-Time. But not anymore. Justin had gone to Europe to fight in the war. And no one teased Anna now. I think she worked for Doctor Sam because Justin was his son. It made her feel closer to Justin.

“Letters,” said Papa, his voice low.

“You were the masters of letter writing, you and Sarah,” said Anna.

“What does that mean?” asked Cassie.

“It means that they wrote letters to each other before they loved each other,” said Anna.

“I never got to write letters,” complained Cassie.

Papa smiled at her.

“No, you came much later.”

“You came during an early snowstorm,” I told Cassie, “with wind and snow and cold. I remember.”

“We all remember!” said Anna, laughing.

“Did I come with letters?” asked Cassie.

“No,” said Anna. “But you can write letters to me in town.”

“I will,” said Cassie, excited. “I will write you a hundred plus seven letters!”

“Here, Caleb,” said Anna. She handed me some books.

“What is this?” I asked.

“My journals,” said Anna. “And new ones. It is your job now.”

“Mine?! I'm not a writer like you, Anna,” I said.

“You'll figure it out, Caleb. One page at a time.”

“I can't!”

“Everyone's not a writer, Caleb,” said Anna. “But everyone can write.”

Sarah looked out of the kitchen window.

“What is it, Sarah?” asked Papa.

“I thought I saw something. Someone, maybe. Over there.”

Papa looked out, too.

“I don't see anyone. But I do see the beginnings of snow. And the wind is picking up. Let's go!”

“Snow!” said Cassie. “And wind! Will someone be born?”

Sarah and Papa laughed.

“Not here,” Sarah said. “Not tonight.”

We picked up Anna's suitcase and packages and went out the door.

“She saw the man,” whispered Cassie.

“Come on, Cass. There's no man,” I said.

I took Cassie's hand and we went out where snow was coming down. Sarah looked worried.

“Anna? I want you to be careful. There's so much sickness.”

“I know you worry about the influenza,” said Anna.

“So many are sick,” said Sarah, putting her arm around Anna. “So many have died. And you see the worst of it.”

“I love working with Sam,” said Anna. “You told me once that it is important to do what you love.”

“I said that, did I?” said Sarah.

“You did,” said Anna.

“You did,” said Cassie, making Sarah laugh.

The snow was falling harder now, so that we couldn't see the clouds anymore.

Caleb's Story. Copyright © by Patricia MacLachlan. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Patricia MacLachlan is the celebrated author of many timeless books for young readers, including Sarah, Plain and Tall, winner of the Newbery Medal. Her novels for young readers include Arthur, For the Very First Time; The Facts and Fictions of Minna Pratt; Skylark; Caleb’s Story; More Perfect than the Moon; Grandfather’s Dance; Word After Word After Word; Kindred Souls; and The Truth of Me; she is also the author of countless beloved picture books, a number of which she cowrote with her daughter, Emily.

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Caleb's Story 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
Nalliecheesebubbles More than 1 year ago
Caleb’s Story is written Patricia MacLauchlan. Caleb’s Story is a continuous of Sarah Plain and Tall. Caleb’s Story takes place on a farm where Caleb happily lived with his family. It was early, and winter was just beginning. Everything was fine until a strange and mysterious man showed up. At the time Caleb didn’t realize that this man would have changed their lives forever. Caleb lives with his sister Cassie, his father Jacob, along with Jacobs’s wife Sarah. Caleb also had another sister, Anna, who lived in town. Cassie is first to see the mysterious man behind the barn. Later the same day, Caleb encounters the same man inside the barn. His name was John, and he was very ill. Sarah came and took the man inside. Although John was a stranger to them, John knew Jacob, and Jacob knew him. Things were not good between them, and John was not something Jacob was looking for. This book is full of surprises and events that will keep you guessing. I was dubious about this book at first, but it turns out this is one of the most interesting books I have ever read. There is never a dull moment in Caleb’s Story. I would recommend this book, along with the rest of the series on Sarah Plain and Tall, to anyone who likes to read, this is also a good book for younger children too, from grades 2nd and up.
SleepDreamWrite More than 1 year ago
Good book, sad in some moments, but also has some sweet moments too. Recommend the book as the other books, Skylark and Sarah Plain and Tall.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Easty reading for 2nd-4th graders and the story is really good. I also recommend the rest of the series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I dont have the book on my nook but i do have the book on a hard copy.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just love this series! I try to read them as much as I can. I have read the whole series 4 or 5 times already since this fall. I just love the NEW! Nancy Drew books. They are even more mystifying than the older ones. Write me about the books that you read. Toodles!)
Guest More than 1 year ago
My favorite character in this book was Caleb, because he loves to play games and always gets bugged by his sister Cassie. I liked the part of the book when Caleb gave his new grandfather a notebook Anna (Caleb¿s sister) had given to him. I think that grandfather and papa could have handled the word fight a little bit better. Also, I think that grandfather should not have pushed papa and made him break his leg. I think that grandfather should have apologized to papa for walking away from papa when he was a boy!! Also, I think that you need to find out what happens to papa and grandfather!!!!!!!!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
i read this like a couple years ago and i was just looking at books and then i saw this book. I hardly remember anything about this book. I only remember that i totally loved it and that it was really heart-warming. i would reccamend for 4th grade and younger : ]
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a second grader. I recommend this book because it has something very strange in it and it is full of suspense! The auther puts great details in her writing and all of her books are awesome!
Guest More than 1 year ago
It's been years since Sarah came to the prairie to marry Anna and Caleb Whitting's father and to be a mother to the children. There's now a new member of the family, four-year-old Cassie. Anna has moved to town to finish school and take a job while her sweetheart fights in World War I in Europe and the influenza epidemic rages. One cold, snowy winter day, little Cassie discovers a strange man behind the barn, a man that turns out to be the father who abandoned Jacob Witting so long ago, when he himself was just a child. Although Sarah tries to help Jacob forgive his father, and Caleb and Cassie try to make their grandfather feel at home, it may take a tragedy to bring the family back together. Readers of the first two books will love this, the third book in the Witting family saga. Highly recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book should be 1000 stars
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
awesome greatest book ever made!
Chinchilla More than 1 year ago
I Cant wait to see what this one is about I loved both of them !