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Sarah, Plain and Tall is a historical fiction novel set in the 19th Century Midwestern Plains written by Patricia MacLachlan. The story is a beautiful tale of exploring the themes of loneliness, loss, grief, and rebirth. This is a wonderful book to use for a novel study, literature circles, book clubs, or individual study in the classroom or home school.

Sarah, Plain and Tall was first published in 1985. The novel has been honored with numerous awards over the years such as the1986 Newbery Medal, the 1986 Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction, and the 1986 Golden Kite Award.

Summary of Sarah, Plain and Tall:

*From the book jacket

Their mother died the day after Caleb was born. Their house on the prairie is quiet now, and Papa doesn’t sing anymore.  Then Papa puts an ad in the paper, asking for a wife, and he receives a letter from Sarah Wheaton, of Maine. Papa, Anna, and Caleb write back. Caleb asks if she sings.

Sarah decides to come for a month. She writes Papa: I will come by train. I will wear a yellow bonnet. I am plain and tall, and Tell the I sing.  Anna and Caleb wait and wonder. Will Sarah be nice? Will she like them? Will she stay?


This is a great novel to accompany a study of

  • Research the ecosystem of the prairie and/or the east coast of Maine.
  • Research the Pioneer days.
  • Research the Northeast coastal area of the United States.
  • Research the Prairie (Midwest) region of the United States.
  • Exploring the themes of loss and rebirth

I offer a complete novel study to accompany Sarah, Plain and Tall for use in the classroom or homeschool. The unit includes both a printable format and a Google Drive™ format for use in a paperless classroom or with Google Classroom.

Sarah, Plain and Tall is a beautiful, simple story of loss, grief, and taking the risk of opening yourself up to love again.