Becky’s Last Read: Sarah, Plain and Tall


Join us all summer long for Last Read posts from a long list of talented writers, librarians and readers.

Becky Fyolek is a Youth Services Librarian in the suburbs of Chicago. She lives a pretty regular life with her husband and son, but dreams of running away (with her family, obviously) to a cabin in Canada to track Sasquatch.

I am a chronic re-reader. It’s a problem. My stack of books that I want to read grows like a fairy tale beanstalk, but I can’t stop re-reading my favorites. I’ve read Fire by Kristin Cashore five times, Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell seven or eight times, and Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte more times than I can count. If I like a book I’ll re-read it at least once, but if I really love a book it enters my obsessive rotation of re-reading.

It’s HiRespossible that one of the reasons I re-read like I do is because I have a terrible memory. My husband calls me a children’s literature savant because I can remember so many books and authors, but I can’t remember anything from my own real life. I have very few memories of childhood, more impressions or brief images, but nothing solid. In fact, every time I read a memoir all I can think is, “How in the world do you remember all that detail!?” I can’t remember what I wear day to day to the point that I keep an outfit log in my closet to make sure I don’t wear the same thing twice in one week and there are people in the world who can remember entire conversations they had years after they happened!

sarahplainandtallAs bad as my memory is, I do remember my mom reading me Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan. It was the first chapter book she ever read to me and I remember lying in bed while she got comfortable next to me and said, “This book doesn’t have pictures, you have to make them in your head.” That was an amazing concept to me. If I could make pictures in my head then I could see them any time I wanted! I was immediately engrossed in the story of Anna, Caleb, their father, and Sarah. I still have very vivid images of the cat, Seal, the family sliding down the hay bales to make Sarah miss the dunes of Maine less, and “nests of curls.”

That’s it then. If I knew I was dying of some disease that would, obviously, still leave me pretty with a slightly tragic pallor, I’d re-read Sarah, Plain and Tall. In fact, it would be my first ever re-read of that book. I’m not sure why I’ve never re-read it. Maybe it’s because it left such a deep impression on me that I’ve never felt like I needed to refresh my memories of it, but if I were on the way out, I know I’d want to relive the evenings lying in bed next to my mom while she read to me.

2 Responses

  1. I love that your mom taught you the ‘make the pictures in your head!’ concept – that’s such an essential skill & it’s great for it to be called out specifically!

    (I’m with you on the memoirs. Thank goodness for FB & emails, I can go back to them to recreate stuff when I’m at a loss. I always assume memoir writers are also detailed diary-keepers!)

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