When I was in college I took a course called "Children's Literature." I was an English major and this was taught by the local public librarian. Everyone loved the class, including me. She made us read tons of picture books, fairy tales, etc. We also had to read two chapter books.
The first chapter book was Charlotte's Web, because she said that was the greatest children's book ever written. The second chapter book was Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan. I cannot remember the professor's name, but I remember that she was selected to be on the Newbery Medal Committee one year: the year that Sarah, Plain and Tall was honored as the best children's book.
Recently I read it to the girls. They loved it, even though it is a bit sad at first. Anna and Caleb are the children in the book. Their mother dies the day after Caleb was born. Catherine was very sad about this. It launched us into a good discussion of what death was, what heaven is, and that death of a parent is actually pretty unusual. I believe I reassured her that it is most likely that we will both live a very long time and I will not die until I am very old.
Well, in the book, Papa is lonely. They live on the prairie. He places an ad in a newspaper "back East" for a bride. Sarah responds. They correspond. Then she comes out to meet the family. This book was set over 150 years ago, so they live a much simpler life. This also prompted some further discussions. I explained that if I were to die, there is a chance that the girls may get a new mom to help take care of them. This seemed like a strange concept to them, but it does sometimes happen and I want them to understand that life continues even if bad things happen.
She is from Maine, so we were able to discuss some geography while reading this book. The girls were already somewhat familiar with the prairie from the Laura Ingalls Wilder books we read.
This book is about 60 pages and we read it in two sittings. I have the sequel, Skylark, which I will hopefully start reading to them tomorrow. I highly recommend this book!