Saturday, April 2, 2016

1986 - Sarah, Plain and Tall


This little book is absolutely charming. I had not heard of it before, and when I saw the title, I did remember the movie they had made of it, though I had not seen it. There are only 58 pages, but the author does a lot with those pages.

The plot is simple, but deep and meaningful to the characters. Papa, Caleb, and Anna, the narrator, have been left without wife and mother when she died the day after giving birth to Caleb. There is a lingering sadness; Papa doesn't sing anymore, Caleb wants to hear the story of his birth over and over again, hoping that it will bring up a memory, any memory of his mother. They live in pioneer times out on the Midwestern plains. And now Papa breaks the news that he has placed an advertisement for a wife, and it has been answered by Sarah, "Plain and tall," as she describes herself.

Sarah comes out for a month, during which time she will see if they suit each other. The story gently proceeds, with them getting to know each other, Caleb worried that she will not like them, Anna and Caleb looking for clues and hints that she is planning on staying, and Sarah's lonesomeness for her place by the sea, where she came from. Sarah does stay, saying that "There is always something to miss, no matter where you are," and that she would miss them more than the sea, if she left.

I enjoyed that the children were not bratty and resentful about a new person coming in to take a role in the family - they wanted their Papa to have a wife and themselves to have a new mother. The conflict was whether Sarah could love them and the land that was so different from her home enough to stay. We only see Sarah's mind through Anna's eyes and words, as Sarah speaks of the sea and is quiet and thoughtful.

I liked the book, and I think it would be a pleasure to read aloud to a child. I picked this copy up for under a dollar at the thrift store.


1 comment:

Loreligh said...

I remember first seeing it on television, though it was more someone reading the book while the illustrations were shown. Very memorable, though