books, check 'em out

and i need a job, so i want to be a paperback writer

Sarah, Plain and Tall 05/11/2010

Sarah, Plain and Tall
Patricia Maclachlan
HarperCollins, 1985
Newbery Winner, 1986
Top 100 Childrens Novels, #90

This is the shortest book I have ever read. Just kidding. There are 5 picture books that are shorter. In all honesty, I finished this book in about 2 hours (2.5 hours total, really — I took a nap about halfway through).

It’s about a family in the Midwest who lost their mother; their father places an ad in a newspaper for a new wife. Sarah, from the sea, introduces herself as “plain and tall” in her first letter. She’s looking for a change. Her brother is getting married, and she feels that the house isn’t hers anymore.

The children, Anna and Caleb, are of course freaked out that they will become attached to Sarah only to have her leave them. (She doesn’t.)

Perhaps what is the most intriguing/fun/interesting aspect of Sarah is her refusal to play by the rules — it’s almost as if in her first letter, she lets Papa know that she is a woman of her own. She’s got a cat who’s coming with her no matter what; she plays in the rain; she goes to town by herself (much to the chagrin of Caleb, who is convinced that she will either die or never return). I like Sarah. She’s the kind of lady I would want to have been in the 19th century.


The Girl Who Threw Butterflies 11/16/2009

The Girl Who Threw Butterflies
Mick Cochrane
Knopf, 2009.
192 pp.

Molly is an 8th grader who recently lost her father in a car accident. Struggling with his death, and how to deal with her mother in their now seemingly empty house, Molly finds a way to stay connected to her dad: she goes out for the boys’ baseball team and hopes that her secret weapon, the knuckleball, will be what sets her apart from the other players (besides her gender, of course).

I was initially drawn to this novel because of a personal connection: a girl who develops a love of baseball because of her dad. I felt for Molly throughout the novel, as she tries to find a new place in her comfortable world that collapsed around her. She feels disconnected from her mother, a stranger in hew own home, but luckily finds a way to become grounded again: baseball. Interestingly, Molly tries out for the boys’ baseball team without much protest from the other kids at school (and without so much as a side glance from her coach…good job, coach!!) But aside from the lack of scandal, there’s still some realism there — Molly’s slightly embarrassed to be the only girl, she flounders a bit when put on the spot, and she certainly suffers at the hand of other players (mostly some jerk named Lloyd who I secretly hope gets hit really hard by a baseball, or a bat, or a fist, etc…). And maybe in 2009, a girl going out for the baseball team isn’t that big of a deal. But still, Molly sure as hell is brave. And I like that.

The last few chapters of the book lost me for a bit; I skimmed the play-by-play action of Molly’s first baseball game (forgive me…but come on, you knew they were gonna win), but overall I did enjoy the book. I’m a fan of female characters who move past just “being a girl” and end up doing great things that girls in real life can look to for guidance or inspiration. Maybe if I’d read this when I was 13, I would’ve gone out for the baseball team, too! (Well…probably not. I’m a bit clumsy…but at least I can catch).