Sarah, Plain and Tall

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Overview

Did Mama sing every day? Caleb asks his sister Anna. Every-single-day, she answers. Papa sang, too.

Their mother died after Caleb was born. Their house on the prairie is quiet now, and Papa doesn't sing anymore. Then Papa puts an ad in the paper, asking for a wife, and he receives a letter from one Sara Elisabeth Wheaton, of Maine. Papa, Ana, and Caleb write back. Caleb asks if she sings.

Sarah desides to come for a month. She writes Papa: I ...

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Sarah, Plain and Tall

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Overview

Did Mama sing every day? Caleb asks his sister Anna. Every-single-day, she answers. Papa sang, too.

Their mother died after Caleb was born. Their house on the prairie is quiet now, and Papa doesn't sing anymore. Then Papa puts an ad in the paper, asking for a wife, and he receives a letter from one Sara Elisabeth Wheaton, of Maine. Papa, Ana, and Caleb write back. Caleb asks if she sings.

Sarah desides to come for a month. She writes Papa: I will come by train. I will wear a yellow bonnet. I am plain and tall, and Tell them I sing. Anna and Caleb wait and wonder. Will Sarah be nice? Will she like them? Will she stay?

When their father invites a mail-order bride to come live with them in their prairie home, Caleb and Anna are captivated by their new mother and hope that she will stay.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times
An exquisite, sometimes painfully touching tale.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780064493642
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/28/1999
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.27 (w) x 7.65 (h) x 0.44 (d)

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; and Kindred Souls. She is also the author of many much-loved picture books, including Three Names; All the Places to Love; What You Know First; Painting the Wind; Bittle; Who Loves Me?; Once I Ate a Pie; I Didn't Do It; Before You Came; and Cat Talk—several of which she cowrote with her daughter, Emily. She lives with her husband and two border terriers in Williamsburg, Massachusetts.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


"Did: Mama sing every day?" asked Caleb. "Every-single-day? " He sat dose to the fire, his chin in his hand. It was dusk, and the dogs lay beside him on the warm, hearthstones.

"Every-single-day," I told him for the second time this week. For the twentieth time this month. The hundredth time this year? And the past few years?

"And did Papa sing, too?"

"Yes. Papa sang, too. Don't get so close, Caleb. You'll heat up."

He, pushed his chair back. It made a hollow scraping sound on the hearthstones, and the dogs stirred. Lottie, muff and black, wagged her tail and lifted her head., Nick slept on.

I turned the bread dough over and over on the marble slab on the kitchen table.

"Well, Papa doesn't sing anymore," said Caleb very softly. A log broke apart and crackled in the fireplace. He looked up at me. "What did I look like when I was born?"

"You didn't have any clothes on," I told him.

I know that," he said.

"You looked like this." I held the bread dough up in a round pale ball.

"I had hair, " said Caleb seriously.

"Not enough to talk about," I said.

"And she named me Caleb," he went on, filling in the old familiar story.

"I would have named you Troublesome,"' I said, making Caleb smile.

"And Mama handed me to you in the yellow blanket and said . . ." He waited for me to finish the story. "And said ... ? "

I sighed. "And Mama said, 'Isn't he beautiful, Anna? I "

"And I was," Caleb finished.

Caleb thought the story was over, and 1, didn't tell him what I had really thought. He was homely and plain, and he had a terrible holler and ahorrid smell. But these were not the worst of him. Mama died the next morning. That was the worst thing about Caleb.

"Isn't he beautiful, Anna? " Her last words to me, I had gone to bed thinking how wretched he looked. And I forgot to say good night.

I wiped my hands on my apron and went to the window. Outside, the prairie reached out and touched the places where the sky came down. Though winter was -nearly over, there were patches of -snow and ice everywhere. I looked at the long dirt road that crawled across the plains, remembering the morning that Mama had died, cruel and sunny. They had come for her in a wagon and, taken her away to be buried. And then the cousins and aunts and uncles had come and tried to fill up the house. But they couldn't.

Slowly, one, by one, they left. And then the days seemed long and dark like winter days, even though it wasn't winter. And Papa didn't sing.

Sarah, Plain and Tall. Copyright © by Patricia MacLachlan. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 127 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(72)

4 Star

(27)

3 Star

(15)

2 Star

(6)

1 Star

(7)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 127 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 27, 2009

    great book for reading

    Sarah Plain and Tall
    Sarah plain and tall is a great book. It is a fiction book. It was written by Patricia MacLauchlan. I enjoyed reading this book I do suggest to read this book.
    The main characters of this book are Sarah, Caleb, Anna, and there dad. I can identify with Sarah because we both love the sea. Pa pa is creative and funny. Seal is Sarah's cat. The cat disappears in the night.
    The story takes place in the 1900's. They are in the middle of no where in Tennessee. They live on a farm with fields that reminds Sarah of the sea in Maine. There is a barn that the kids like to play in, and they keep all the animals there. The house is old but in good shape.
    I think the author is trying to say people that aren't from where you are just like you. I learned to try new things and to trust people. Pa pa saw a big storm coming and he knew the roof needed to be fix so Sarah and Pa pa fix the roof together and ran inside.
    Two kids and their dad live together on a farm. One day the dad put a flier out looking for a new wife because the kid's mom died and they need more help. Sarah replied to his flier saying that she is plain, tall, and loves the sea. When she got there was happy but still sad. The kids helped her feel better. They went swimming and played in the hay. Sarah wanted to lean how to ride horse and drive. One day Sarah goes to town and its dark now and she not home yet. The kids are sitting inside and the dogs start to bark and every body runs out side it Sarah.
    I thought it was a great book good story, good book. The book was fun. It was slightly predicable. I would give this book four stars

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2012

    good book

    i give this book 4 stars because the mom died and they where alone for a while this women name Sarah came and everyone likes her and she change the kids life.i recommend this book.

    4 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 17, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Sweet

    A nice short quick read. I read the author's other book Baby and really liked it. I heard about this but for some reason hadn't read it. Now I have and it is a sweet story.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    A Good Book

    I thought that this book was very good. My favorite part was when the family had the storm, which was a squall. They sleep in the barn, which I never have done before, so I don't know what it is like. I think it would be good to give this book to a friend for their birthday, or to just buy it to read to yourself. It's a great book. It's a series, too. It is the best book I have ever read by Patricia Maclachlan.

    Olivia
    Age 6 1/2

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2007

    You will like.

    As a child Patricia MacLachlan loved having the opportunity to read. She read a book, talked about it with her parents, reread it, and then acted it out. She did not start writing until she was thirty-five years old. In 1985, she wrote the book Sarah, Plain and Tall. It won the Newberry award in 1986. The New York Times said that the book was the simplest of love stories expressed in the simplest of prose. The book also won the 1985 Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction for Children, the 1986 Christopher Award, the 1986 Jefferson Cup Award of the Virginia Library Association, and the 1985 Golden Kite Award for fiction. The reading level of the book is third grade, fourth month. This genre of the book is classified as historical fiction. In the beginning, Caleb asks Anna why doesn¿t there papa sing anymore. She does not know. Papa comes home with a surprising announcement that he placed an ad for a wife and mother. There is a reply from Sarah from Maine. In the book, it says ¿Dear Jacob, I will come by train. I will wear a yellow bonnet. I am plain and tall. Sarah.¿ She comes to live with them for a month to see how things work out. Does she marry Papa or does she go back home to Maine? Read the book to find out the ending because you might be surprised. The tale gently explores themes of abandonment, loss and love. I read this story when I was in elementary school, and I have always liked it. It is a different type of love story that involves children, but it is still appropriate. I would recommend people to take the time and read it. It is very worthwhile. MacLachlan, Patricia. Sarah, Plain and Tall. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1985.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2006

    Newbery Winner!

    Life just wasn¿t the same without Mama. Even Papa had changed his ways. Then one day, Papa decided that he didn¿t want to be alone anymore Papa wanted a wife. So he put an ad in the paper asking for a mail-order bride. Shortly after, he received a reply from a Sarah Elisabeth Wheaton, of Maine. Her letter to Papa simply stated, ¿I will come by train. I will wear a yellow bonnet. I am plain and tall. Tell them I sing.¿ Because she did not tell them much, the children (Anna and Caleb) started to wonder, ¿Do you think she¿ll come? And will she stay? What if she thinks we are loud and pesky?¿ Sarah, Plain and Tall is a very inspirational (realistic fiction) book that a lot of children can relate to. Whether someone they cared about died or left them, this book can bring hope to them that things might be ok (at least somewhat) again one day. This book teaches children that if you have lost someone you cared about, it is ok to grieve for a while, but eventually everyone needs to move on. Growing up, Patricia MacLachlan was what some people call a ¿reading addict.¿ She would go to the library, check out some books, read them on the way home, and by the time she returned home, she would be done reading the books. She later went on to publish her first book in 1979, The Sick Day. She creates her characters for her books to be the friends and family members that she never had. She has always had a strong connection to the wide-open prairie (and she even carries a little bag of prairie dirt around with her) this love of hers is what inspired her two books, Skylark and Sarah, Plain and Tall. She lives in western Massachusetts. MacLachlan, Patricia. Sarah, Plain and Tall. New York: HarperCollins Children¿s Books, 1985. RL: Ages 8-11, Grades 3-5

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 16, 2012

    I read this book in third grade.I love Seal,the cat.IT was soooo

    I read this book in third grade.I love Seal,the cat.IT was sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo good.Read SARAH PLAIN AND TALL.

    3 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2012

    Sarah Plain and Tall Review

    They live on a prairie. There are two kids in this book. They have lots of pets. It is always winter. The boy's name is Cabel. The girl's name is Ann. They meet Sarah and they like her. Now that Sarah is here they have a cat. Their mom died.
    I liked this book because it has a lot of feeling. I like this book because you can read it with another person. It is a sad book.

    3 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2010

    INTERESTING STORY

    I thought this story had so much feeling into it.i liked it.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2011

    Good book, if you have a good imagination!

    I liked this book because it was interesting to see the life of Sarah. It was fun to see how different life was during the time when Sarah lived. I think the author could have used better descriptions throughout the book to help me better identify with characters.
    I think 3rd and 4th graders would enjoy this book.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 31, 2010

    Sarah, Plain and Tall: One of My All-Time Favorites

    Although the writer of the book-cover blurbs recommends this book for ages 8-10, I disagree; it is a book for readers of all ages to enjoy. Patricia MacLachlan has created a simple, lovely, heart-warming story about the intricacies, the simplicities, and (mostly) the power of love. The reader experiences not only the hardships of life on the American prairie, but also the indomitable spirit of a motherless family struggling to survive, prosper, and to persuade Sarah, a spirited visitor from Maine, to stay permanently -- to fill a painful void in their lives. Considering the vast differences in background between Jacob's pioneer family and the gentle (but strong) East Coast native, Sarah's decision might a difficult one to make.

    Written from the point of view of Anna, the little girl in the family, the narrative is clear, concise, and totally believable. MacLachlan effectively uses a minimal number of words to create a maximal number of images -- evoking a wide range of emotional responses, from laughter to tears.

    I recommend this book to any child or adult looking to immerse oneself into a family-oriented, "feel-good" story. It's no mystery why Sarah, Plain and Tall is a Newbery Medal winner.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 9, 2009

    This is a great book...

    My favorite part is when Jacob posted in the newspaper that he was single and looking for a wife because that is when Sarah writes letters and then that is when Sarah comes into the story. I liked when Sarah came to the Prairie and described what it was like in Maine. She gave a lot of vivid images in my head.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2007

    This is a very boring book

    Sarah Plain and Tall is a very boring, horribly written book. I literally fell asleep reading it. But some people love it. I asked one of my teachers Do you know any good books that I can read? Then one of my teachers said Sarah Plain and tall is a great book. I read it because I don't like giving up on books, and I would read Sarah Plain and Tall really fast. I reccomend this book for a younger person who likes books that take place in rural places. But I think that there way more great books that people can read. I was in third grade when I read this and I think it should be for people younger than third graders. I'd reccomend this for someone in second grade. But anyways I think this was a horrible poor written book.

    2 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2007

    Sarah, Plain and Tall

    Patricia was born in Cheyenne, Wyoming but later moved to Mass. She taught English for a while. She married and had three children. She now lives with her husband in Williamsburg, Mass. She has said that she loves the prairie so much that she carries a bag of prairie dirt around with her. Sarah, Plain and Tall reflects her love for the prairie. The story is about a man who is left to raise his children alone after his wife dies the day after their son Caleb¿s birth. He decides that Caleb and his sister Anna need a mother. He decides to place an ad in the paper requesting a wife. He gets a response from Maine from Sarah. She states in the reply that she is plain and tall. Sarah comes to live with them for a month to see if she can leave the sea that she loves so much to stay with them. I recommend reading the book to learn the outcome. It was a very good book. MacLachlan, Patricia. Sarah, Plain and Tall. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1985. Reading Level 3.4

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 23, 2007

    Sarah, Plain and Tall

    This book won the 1986 Newbery Medal. It is a historical fiction book and is appropriate for children ages 8-11. This is a great story that I enjoyed as a child. This is a story about a girl names Anna. Her mother died after the birth of her brother Caleb. In this story you see how courageous this little girl is by trying to help her little brother to know their mother. Anna would tell Caleb the same stories everyday about their mother. 'Did Mama sing every day?' Caleb asks his sister Anna. 'Every-single-day,' she answers. 'Papa too.' Their father tells them that he placed an ad to find them a mother and a wife for himself. Do you think Caleb and Anna were happy to hear of this? The author of this book is Patricia MacLachlan. She lives in Massachusetts with her three children. MacLachlan, Patricia. Sarah, Plain and Tall. New York: Harper Collins Publishers Inc., 1985.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 23, 2007

    Mail Order Bride

    Sarah, Plain and Tall is a 1986 Newbery Medal Winner. It is the story of a girl named Anna, her brother Caleb and her father Jacob and the loss of their mother soon after giving birth to Caleb. Jacob is having a hard time raising his children and taking care of the farm alone. He decides to order a mail order bride like his neighbor, which was quiet common in those days. When Anna and Caleb hear the news they begin to write Sarah letters. Sarah is from Maine and has some very interesting stories to tell about her life on the coast. The children have never seen the ocean and Sarah's stories seem to come from another world. When Sarah arrives the children are excited and seem to accept her. Even though Sarah has brought her pet cat Seal with her she still misses her aunts, brother and the sea. Of course, Sarah has grown to love the children and is torn between her feelings of where she belongs. The children have also fallen in love with Sarah and do not wish to lose her. This story is wonderful, giving the reader an insight of life on the prairie in the 1800's. As a person reads the book he/she finds him/herself falling in love with the characters and wanting them to become a family. This book is recommended to children 8-10 years of age, but I would recommend it to anyone. Sarah, Plain and Tall falls into the genre of historical fiction due to the setting, timeline and events that occur during the story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 2, 2007

    Sarah, Plain and Tall

    This book is about a family and how their mother died the morning after she had a baby and his name was Caleb and the sister's name was Anna.The father's name was Jacob and he put an advertisement in the newspaper for a new wife and a girl named Sarah wrote a letter and said she would come for one month and she liked it there.Will Sarah stay? My favorite character was Seal because I have a cat too and it looks like Seal. I recommend this book to people that like really good books.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2006

    Newberry Winner Sarah, Plain and Tall

    This is a nice little book that children from the ages of eight to 11 might like. The book is about a farm family that lives way out in the country. After the mother dies, the father takes out an ad for a wife. There is one lady, Sarah, who comes for a visit. She is from Maine, but the two children and papa really seem to like her. In one of her letters to the father she writes, ¿Tell them I sing.¿ That was really important to the children because they know that their papa had not sung since the mother died when Caleb was born. While there you can really tell that Sarah misses her home by the sea when she talks about it. The children really want her to stay and in the end she does. I really liked this story and believe that anyone would. The author of this book is Patricia MacLachlan. She lives in Williamsburg, Massachusetts with her husband. She has written many children¿s book, and many of those have won awards. MacLachlan, Patricia. Sarah, Plain and Tall. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1985.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2006

    Sarah

    Jacob, Anna, and Caleb a family of three and two dog Lottie and Nick. All were mourning day after day over the lost of Jacobs wife and Anna and Caleb¿s, mother¿s death the day after Caleb was born. They missed her soft presents, cooking and most of all the sound of sweet voice as she sang. Jacob thought it was time for a little help around the house, so he placed an ad in the newspaper to seek a wife. Anna and Caleb, even the dogs were in shock but at the same time excited. The most soft sounding but heartwarming letter came from a lady name Sarah that lived by the sea, to Jacob responding to his ad. After Anna, Caleb and Jacob exchanged letters with her, she came by train along with her cat in the spring to begin their new lives. Anna had trouble adjusting to her new mother at first but, eventually came around. MacLachlan connected the love Sarah had for the sea to show readers her soft personality and help compose a picture of Sarah being plain and tall. She was a jack of trades¿ kind of women she would and could just about do anything.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2006

    A Wonderful Book

    How scary do you think it would be to have a woman from far away come to be your mother? That is exactly what happens in this book, but Anna and Caleb didn¿t feel scared, they only felt excitement. This book starts out with the two children talking about their two children talking about their deceased mother and the things they miss about her, especially her singing. That very night their father comes home and tells them that he has put an ad in the paper for a wife, and that Sarah has answered. Anna, Caleb, and their father write back and forth with Sarah for awhile before she arrives and she discloses in one of her letters that she to sings. They are so excited. After Sarah comes to live with them for a trial basis, they all fall for her immediately. Sarah can cook, sing, and even fix a roof, but their biggest fear is, can she forget her sea home and stay? The author of this book Patricia Maclachlan was born in Wyoming, but has spent most of her life in Massachusetts. The author has said that she two of her major loves come through in the book Sarah, Plain and Tall, her love of the sea and her love of the wide-open prairie. She said that she carries around a bag of prairie dirt with her to remind her of home. This book that she wrote is wonderful and would be great for children anywhere from late primary through the upper elementary grades.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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