#90 Sarah, Plain and Tall

09 Aug

Sarah, Plain and Tall was a quick read, clocking in at only 58 pages.  The winner of the 1985 Newbery Medal, it is worthy of it’s accolades.  In this novel, Caleb and Anna’s father invites a woman to come to their home and consider marrying him, as their mother and his wife passed away directly after Caleb’s birth.  Sarah comes from the East coast and stays for a trial period to see if the marriage will work out.  The novel tells the story of her month staying with them.  Not only does it come in at #90 on the Top 100 Children’s Books, but it was chosen as one of the class reads for my husband’s summer class, Literature for Children.  I don’t believe I have mentioned this before, but yes, Steve’s last university class ever was Literature for Children.  Ironic, huh?  Well, ironic in that as he was finishing up all the hard work he put in by reading children’s books, I was starting my first ever reading challenge, and there were a few crossovers from his class list to my challenge list.  Anyway, the point of all this is to say that he told me a lot about Sarah, Plain and Tall and the use of color throughout the novel to emphasize emotion and feelings.  For my post reflecting my reading of this novel, I am going to map out the use of color in the novel.  First, the meanings of the colors:

Yellow = happiness and joy

Blue = calm, stability, confidence and contentment

Green = growth and life

Gray= sorrow and emptiness

Now, on to the analysis. . .

  • Anna tells her younger brother Caleb that he was brought home from his birth in a yellow blanket, signifying the joy that he brought to the family
  • Sarah arrives wearing a yellow bonnet, signifying the happiness that she brings to the family
  • When he goes to meet Sarah, Father wears a blue shirt, showing that he is the picture of stability for the family, even in the midst of this adventure they are embarking on, inviting Sarah into their home
  • Sarah arrives in the spring, when green grass is abundant, as she brings life to the family in the midst of life growing around them
  • After the spring rains come through, the sky is left green and black, with the ominous feeling of storms mixed with the life that the rain itself brings
  • Sarah describes the sea as blue, gray and green as she reflects on the empty yet stable life she left behind
  • Sarah also wears a yellow bonnet during her trip back to town, to retrieve the colored pencils she purchased for the children, confirming her decision to marry their father

As you can see, the use of color is significant in the author’s depiction of the experience that Sarah, Caleb, Anna and their father go through during the trial period of Sarah’s stay.  Check it out!  It’s a beautiful story.

Sarah, Plain and Tall

by Patricia MacLachlan

Originally published in 1985


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