Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan
Recommended for: All ages
What kind of woman will answer the ad that Anna and Caleb's father places for a wife and a mother? Will she be kind and loving? Will she make their father happy? And once she arrives at their prairie home, will she want to stay? That's what Anna and Caleb want to know as they eagerly make plans for the arrival of Sarah--a warm, wise, and wonderful woman whose long-awaited visit just may change their lonely lives forever.
This is one of those books that was always a part of my childhood. I can't remember when I first read it, it seems I've always known about this story. I do, however, remember seeing the movie for the first time and being severely disappointed by the "yellow bonnet." It was not a bonnet, it was a straw hat with what looked like a piece of yellow tulle over it. Sorry, but Glen Close doesn't fit the story. Because it's a sweet book, a simple, but beautiful story.
Anna and Caleb's mother died, and so their father sends for a mail order bride. Sarah comes, and they all get to know each other as they decide whether or not she will marry their papa. But Sarah comes from a very different life. She has always lived by the sea, while they live on a pioneer farm. Sarah misses the sea, but the children know they will miss Sarah if she returns to it.
Sarah tells them about the sea: the colors, blue and gray and green, the sand dunes and how she would slide down them, the waves. Their eyes are opened to a new life, a new place, which they actually visit in the second book. And she gives them something they haven't really experienced: a mother.
Sarah, Plain and Tall is a small book, it's written for children who have just begun chapter books, but it's an enduring story. In fact, I hadn't known there was a fifth book in the series, so when I saw it at Goodwill, I quickly snapped it up. These are quality stories for young children, especially those interested in pioneer life as I was. Sarah, Plain and Tall is well worth its Newbery, and an essential childhood story.