Patricia MacLachlan, an award-winning writer known to millions of young readers as the author of “Sarah, Plain and Tall,” a novel about two motherless farm children and the gentle woman who comes to the prairie to make them whole, died March 31 at
her home in Williamsburg, Mass. She was 84.
Her son John MacLachlan confirmed her death but did not cite a cause.
Mrs. MacLachlan wrote more than 60 children’s books during her half-century career, which she began in her mid-30s after her own children started school, leaving her time in the day to collect her memories and observations and turn them into stories.
She deplored children’s books of the moralizing kind, those sledgehammers of literature wielded by grown-ups determined to pound ideas into young minds.
“Among some writers there’s this ghastly notion that one has to teach children lessons,” she once told the Orange County Register. “That’s condescending and incorrect. It’s not what writing is about. You write to find out what you’re
thinking about, to find out how you feel.”
Mrs. MacLachlan’s thoughts often ran toward family and place, the two elements at the core of her most famous book, “Sarah, Plain and Tall.” The volume received the Newbery Medal, the highest award in children’s literature, and has sold more than
7 million copies since it first appeared in 1985, according to the publishing house HarperCollins...
...John MacLachlan said his mother was writing during her last week of life.
He also shared how his mother wrote “Sarah, Plain and Tall,” as a way of preserving his grandmother’s memories, who was losing them at the time. He said that his grandmother actually knew a woman who was a mail-order bride from Maine and that years
later he found out that the real Sarah’s name was Ella — something he discovered after he had named his first child that.
“What are the chances?” he said.
Like his brother, Jamison MacLachlan, of Plymouth, said his mother stayed true to herself, noting that she would speak to anybody and everybody.
“You would never know she was a famous author,” he said. “She would speak to the president of the United States pretty much the same way she would talk to her grandkids.”...