Title: Sarah, Plain and Tall (Newbery Award Book)
Author: Patricia MacLachlan
Publisher & Publication Date: Harper & Row, 1985
Genre: Historical fiction, novel
Grade Level: 3-5
Summary: Sarah, Plain and Tall is about a family living in an unknown state (to the reader) in the American Prairie. There is a young girl, Anna, her younger brother Caleb, and their father, Jacob, living in a small house in the open prairie. He informs his children that he has put an advertisement in the paper for a wife and that a lady named Sarah has written a response. They all write her letters and she writes back and decides to come to stay with them for a month. She misses the sea (she is from Maine) but likes all the new things she is being introduced to in the prairie. She learns to ride and horse and handle the wagon on her own and then leaves for town. Caleb thinks that she is not coming back because she doesn't like the family anymore, but she does come back with colored pencils. She ends up marrying Jacob and living with the family as their new wife and mother.
Response: I thought this was a wonderful story. It made me sad to think of the children growing up without a mother, but I was glad Sarah came along and decided to stay. It is a very touching story and I can see why it won the Newbery medal. It moved along at a good pace. It was short, but had just the right amount of details to make it a good story. It was easy to read. The words weren't too difficult. I liked the way the letters were in the middle of the pages. They flowed with the text before and after the letter was shown. I actually felt like I was watching a movie while reading the book. The details were good enough to make the book seem like a television series. The reader can stop at the end of a chapter and would be satisfied, or they could read on and read about the next exciting, new thing Sarah encountered.
Teaching Ideas: This would be a good book to use to tie in with a geography lesson. It talks about Maine where Sarah comes from and the family is from a state in the American Prairie. Tennessee is also mentioned in the book. Providing students with a map of the United States would help them track of where the different people come from. You could have them label the states in the American Prairie and all the other states mentioned. Afterwards you could have them finish the map so they could see the states they had to travel through to get from point A to point B. I think this would be an exciting and fun activity to do while reading the book!