Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sarah Plain and Tall

Sarah, Plain and TallTalk about coming late to the game ... I've just finished Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan (1986), a Newberry award-winning middle-grade novel that has also been made into a movie starring Glenn Close. I haven't seen the movie yet, but the book has made it to the top of my MG books list. So simple, so perfect.

Sarah, Plain and Tall, set in the early 20th century, tells the story of a widower and his two kids as they invite a potential new mother into their Midwestern home. Sarah arrives homesick for her coastal home in Maine but the children and their father do their upmost to welcome her and help her transition to life on the Plains. The kids thrill at Sarah's every mention of "we" and "us" and hint of a future with them, and despair any slight sign of Sarah's sadness. Will Sarah stay?

The book is slight of hand but the story is leaden with emotional weight. MacLachlan cleverly uses the eldest child, the girl, to the story straightforwardly. There are no saccharine moments of unwarranted affection but rather a true deep inhale of suspense as we follow Sarah's journey and her transformation.

Written for kids 9-12, this book would delight any reader. The story may upset very young children with the idea of a lost mother but this heartwarming story will transcend any temporary misgivings.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat

JOSEPH HAD A LITTLE OVERCOAT: A very old overcoat is recycled numerous times into a variety of garments.Gotta be honest, my 3 1/2 year old did not like Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Taback, a Caldecott Medal winner.  It's a brief story about resourceful Joseph who continues to recycle his old and worn overcoat down to its very last thread. The message is clear, and timely, and the illustrations lush.

My gut is telling me that the colors were a little too dark for my pink-adoring kid. In fact, I somewhat wryly suggested that if had been about a ballerina who had kept recycling her tutu and leotard she would have liked it better. She did concede that I was probably right.

 Like broccoli, if I keep plying her with this book, she'll come to know it and appreciate it as I do.