Review Blog

Mar 01 2013

Sarah plain and tall by Patricia MacLachlan

cover image

HarperTrophy, 2004. ISBN 978 0 06 440205 7.
(Age: 8+) Highly recommended. Early novel. American history. Step parents. One of the useful things about AbeBooks and other such companies, is being able to find and buy a book that was a favourite years ago and reread it. So it is with Sarah plain and tall. Recently reading Norah's chicks by Patricia MacLachlan, I remembered another of her books that I read many years ago and loved. I found it had been reprinted and was able to get a secondhand copy published in 2004 for $5. This wonderful story, so well told, concerns a man and his two young children living on a farm out west, after his wife has died. The background of the farm work that he does is a subtle part of the writing, and we see that he has little spare time. He needs someone to look after the house and the children, and so advertises for a wife. An answer comes from Sarah, who lives near the sea. The correspondence is shared between the small family until she agrees to come and stay with them for a month.
During that month, the plain and tall Sarah endears herself to the man and his children, while overcoming some of her grief at not being near the sea, and she agrees to stay to be married.
This Newbery Award winner is wonderful, the story inviting and enveloping, the feelings of each of the four so well portrayed that we see each of their fears and understand them. That a young woman can travel into an unknown place with the possibility of marriage astounds me and I have a profound admiration of the courage of those who did so. First published in 1985, Sarah plain and tall has lost none of its freshness and appeal.
Fran Knight

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