“Did Mama sing every day?” Caleb asks his sister Anna. “Every-single-day,” she answers. “Papa sang, too.” 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 one Sarah Elisabeth 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 them I sing. Anna and Caleb wait and wonder. Will Sarah be nice? Will she like them? Will she stay?
MacLachlan, author of Unclaimed Treasures, has written an affecting tale for children. In the late 19th century a widowed midwestern farmer with two children–Anna and Caleb–advertises for a wife. When Sarah arrives she is homesick for Maine, especially for the ocean which she misses greatly. The children fear that she will not stay, and when she goes off to town alone, young Caleb–whose mother died during childbirth–is stricken with the fear that she has gone for good. But she returns with colored pencils to illustrate for them the beauty of Maine, and to explain that, though she misses her home, “the truth of it is I would miss you more.” The tale gently explores themes of abandonment, loss and love.
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