Sarah, Plain and Tall
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.