Beloved children's book author Patricia MacLauchlan passed away at her Massachusetts home on March 21, 2022, at 84. Mac Lachlan was born in Wyoming and moved to Minnesota when she was five for her father’s job as a philosophy professor. She attended elementary school and high school in Connecticut after the family relocated again.
It was during this time that her mother, an English teacher, helped to foster her love of reading and writing. MacLachlan attended the University of Connecticut, where she studied English and met her husband. She worked as an English teacher after graduation but did not immediately turn to writing. She began writing children's books at the age of thirty-five when her children began school. She published her first book in 1979 and earned the Newbury medal for her most well-known novel, Sarah, Plain, and Tall, just six years later. MacLauchlan published over sixty books throughout her career, including several written with her daughter, Emily MacLachlan Charest. She was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2002. Join us today as we celebrate some of MacLachlan's astounding career by examining some of her best works:
Sarah, Plain and Tall Series
MacLachlan's most famous work is her 1986 book, Sarah, Plain, and Tall. This story about widower Jacob Witting building an unconventional family in the 18th century Midwest by taking out an ad for a mail-order bride to help him raise his children was a massive critical and commercial success, earning MacLachlan the Newbery Medal, the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction, and the Golden Kite Award. It was adapted into a movie starring Glen Close and Christopher Walken. Its follow-up, Skylark (1994), follows the Witting children as they go with their stepmother Sarah to her native Maine to stay safe from the drought as their father fights to save their crops and farm. This book was also adapted into a film. Caleb’s Story (2004) tells the story of the family, particularly their father Jacob, learning to forgive Jacob’s father, who they all believed to be dead. Unlike the previous two books, this story is told from Caleb’s perspective. 2005’s More Perfect Than the Moon changes narrators again, this time with Cassie, who was just a baby in the previous book, taking center stage as she copes with the impending birth of a younger sibling. The final book in the Sarah, Plain and Tall series, Grandfather’s Dance, showcases the younger children growing up as Anna prepares for her wedding.
One of MacLachlan's most moving works is Baby, published in 1993. This book tells the story of Larkin, whose family lives on an island people often visit on vacation. Just six months after Larkin's baby brother dies after living only one day, her family finds a baby left behind by one of the summer visitors, accompanied by a note asking them to take care of her until her mother can return. A beautiful book about grief and love, this is a must-have for anyone looking to explore MacLachlan's books outside the Sarah, Plain, and Tall series. It was adapted into a film starring Farrah Fawcett in 2000.
Waiting for Magic
Waiting for Magic follows William and his family in the wake of their father leaving their mother. To make the children feel better, their mom adopts four dogs and one cat, who happens to be able to speak to them, but only if they believe in magic. This sweet story shows how William comes to believe in magic like his younger sister while also showcasing a loving story about forgiveness and reconciliation as their father and mother work out their relationship and their father regains his children's trust.
All the Places to Love
All the Places to Love differs from the rest of the books on this list in that it is a picture book rather than a novel. This book tells the story of Eli growing up on his family farm. The book showcases his various family members' favorite places on the farm as Eli tries to decide on his favorite place. Beautiful illustrations by Mike Wimmer enhance this charming book.