Monday, November 10, 2008

Sarah, Plain and Tall - Genre 5 Historical Fiction

MacLachlan, Patricia. 1985. Sarah, plain and tall. New York: Harper and Row. ISBN 0060241012
Plot Summary
In this story, a young motherless family from the midwest invites a woman from the east coast to come visit them. The hope is that Sarah will stay with them to become their new wife and mother. Through the perspective of young Anna, the reader sees how Sarah and this young family come together, learn about each other, and eventually become a new family. Sarah brings with her the love of the sea - its colors, shells, and landscape. In exchange, she learns about life on the prairie - hard work, hot summers, and wide open spaces. In the end, Anna is sure there will be a summer wedding.
Critical Analysis
This touching story, told from the perspective of a young girl named Anna, describes how a single woman from Maine leaves behind her family to become the wife and mother of Anna's family in the midwest. The author allows us to feel the pain of missing one's wife and mother as well as the anxious excitement of the possible addition of a stepmother to the family. The delightful observations of the children as Sarah introduces her east coast culture to the family and learns their midwest pioneer ways brings smiles and tears.

In addition to being a heartwarming story, the book also gives a lot of information about lief on the prairie. The reader learns that this life can be lonely and the work is hard. While there are many opportunities for fun like swimming in the cow pond and sliding down hay dunes, there are also many scary times like moms who can't get proper medical help and rainstorms that threaten to tear apart houses and barns. Readers learn about the culture of prairie life while falling in love with Anna, Caleb, Papa, and Sarah, plain and tall.
Professional Review Excerpt
from Review MacLachlan, author of Unclaimed Treasures, has written an affecting tale for children. In the late 19th century a widowed midwestern farmer with two children--Anna and Caleb--advertises for a wife. When Sarah arrives she is homesick for Maine, especially for the ocean which she misses greatly. The children fear that she will not stay, and when she goes off to town alone, young Caleb--whose mother died during childbirth--is stricken with the fear that she has gone for good. But she returns with colored pencils to illustrate for them the beauty of Maine, and to explain that, though she misses her home, "the truth of it is I would miss you more." The tale gently explores themes of abandonment, loss and love.
~ This story would be a useful illustration of the life of a farming family living on the prairie.
~ Another connection that could be made is that of comparing and contrasting cultures and exploring the idea of different cultures being able to come together.
~ From a writing perspective, the story could be connected to letter writing as well as point of view.

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