Patricia MacLachlan passed away on March 31st at the age of 84. She has crossed the Rainbow Bridge to be with her dogs, especially those in her books. It has taken me some time to write this blog post because I knew her. She was a remarkable woman and a terrific writer. Her stories were the ‘I-can’t-put-the-book-down’ books.
It Happened Like This…
It’s 1986. Our daughter is in third grade, and her required reading is Sarah, Plain and Tall. I took her copy and read it over the weekend. I was moved. I cried. I fell in love with this book. The book still sticks with me. I’ve read so many books, but this one… no wonder it won the Newbery.
My beloved 1986 copy is on loan.
Years passed. I had been a teacher for decades, passionate about good children’s books. I spotted a poster that invited people to hear guest authors speak at Mount Holyoke College. Patricia MacLachlan was on the list! I was excited because I had just read her newest book, The Poet’s Dog. Hubby and I drove out to the college, reading aloud the book in the car along the way. I often tell people it’s the best 88 pages of literature. It is! We found the room for the presentation, and quickly realized the audience was all children’s literature college students. Boy, did we stick out like a sore thumb.
We stayed. Thank goodness.
After her presentation people came up front to talk with her and look through her collection of books. She smiled at my copy of Sarah, Plain and Tall, because it was so old. I saw on her table of books one that I have, The Iridescence of Birds. It is about Henri Matisse when he was a child and discovering colors.
“I have this book. It’s wonderful. I read it to my class when we learn about France and their artists, like Henri Matisse. His grandson lives in our town of Groton.”
You could have heard a pin drop.
“Really? Do you think you could get me his address? I would love to send him a copy of my book. Please call me Patty.”
Okay, here I am with an award-winning author, and she wants me to call her Patty. I wanted to get down on my knees and tell her how Sarah, Plain and Tall changed me. Instead I said, “The Poet’s Dog should have won the Newbery.” She smiled. We both knew it was true.
And that’s how I met Patricia MacLachlan.
As the years went by, I treasured every book Patty wrote. Each had history, dogs, and stories with some sadness- but written in a way that made me feel good. Her characters were ‘just like us’.
The Hundred Year Barn incorporates far more than barns. The family history, and a wedding ring, make the barn come alive.
Nora’s Chicks centers on a family moving from Russia to the prairie. Adapting to many changes is difficult, yet Nora finds a way.
Snowflakes Fall is a tribute to nature, and all the places snowflakes land.
Wondrous Rex is a dog who helps a writer.
It is hard to type My Father’s Words without a wave of emotion. A father dies in an unexpected accident, and the children remember his words. There is no sadness, just a search for understanding. The youngest child is drawn to a dog shelter, and the story unfolds in a remarkable way, including singing ‘Dona Nobis Pacem’. The story is told through the older daughter. It is uplifting, written as only Patricia MacLachlan can do.
Prairie Days begins with, “Where I was born.” It is a remembrance of yesteryear on the prairie, with details that make us smile. The illustrations are stunning. Today I was at the Eric Carle Museum, and there was an original illustration from the book! The illustration was done in collage. What a treat to see this!
Thank you Patricia MacLachlan for writing stories that will stick with us and make a difference. May you rest in peace.
A wonderful tribute. How amazing that you got to meet this awesome writer. Something you will never forget. I love her books too, especially The Poets Dog. May she rest in peace among her furry friends.
Thanks so much, Darlene! She was a terrific writer. I highly recommend My Father’s Words. Yes, the dog saves the day.
A lovely tribute, Jennie 💛🙏🏼
Thank you, Ritu!
Such an insightful tribute to a special lady who clearly shared her heart. Thank you Jennie.
She certainly did, Sandra. Many thanks.
A wonderful eulogy, Jennie.
Thank you, Steve.
This is a very nice tribute to a wonderful author. Finding the right words had to be hard for you, Jennie – but you did.
Thank you, Dan. I’m glad the words finally came, and expressed a fitting tribute.
Good tribute, Jennie. Your commitment to good children’s books shows.
Thank you, Frank!
What a beautiful post, Jennie, and I thank you for introducing me to Patricia with The Poet’s Dog a few years ago. It is indeed a remarkable book. I enjoyed your short review of her other books and have put The Iridescence of Birds on my to read list. The title is brilliant and I love Matisse’s work, so I know I will enjoy it. Thank you.
Thank you so much, Norah. Her books are wonderful. I know how much you liked The Poet’s Dog. My Father’s Words is equally good. I hope you enjoy the Matisse book. On a side note, I taught his son’s (the one who lives here in Groton) children. His wife told me about visiting Henri’s son in France. Formality, and he was a grumpy old man, like Henri. Haha!
I did enjoy The Irridescence of Birds, Jennie. I hadn’t realised that it was a picture book. I have a few picture books about Henri and am fascinated by his work. So colourful. You move in famous circles, Jennie. I guess that’s easy when you’re famous yourself. You make a wonderful contribution to the lives of so many.
If you want to know more about Henri, the picture book Henri’s Scissors is excellent. I’m glad you enjoyed the first book. Yes, she has written both picture books and chapter books. Thank you for your ‘way too kind’ words, Norah. 🥰
Thank you, Jennie. It’s always useful to know of more good books to share. 💖
You’re welcome, Norah. 🙂
My sympathies to you as you mourn the loss of your colleague-acquaintance friend. Such encounters you have had that touch so many others as well as yourself…
My first exposure to this amazing author was when our eldest read ‘Sarah, Plain and Simple’ first in third grade. Because she was in a 3/4 class, her fourth grade year the film came out (1991) and we saw it together as a family/class event. Well, I say that because I was the “Music & Cooking Mom” volunteer for Mrs. Evans and so had insider info on when it would be part of the curriculum and hence the inclusion in the ‘event’.
I confess to not pursuing this author more closely on other of her works, but have put holds on The Poet’s Dog & The Iridescence of Birds via our inter-library loan system.
You won’t be disappointed! I’m glad you had a similar encounter with her ‘Sarah’ book. Way to go, Music & Cooking Mom!!
Always sad to lose great talent. Thaks for sharing your thoughts and experiences, Jennie.
Yes, indeed. Glad you enjoyed it, John.
Sad news for you, the the loss of a lady lady whose work means so much in your life. But what an amazing legacy to leave behind! And one that you continue when you read her books to your class.
Best wishes, Pete.
Yes, sad news and a great legacy left behind. Her books will be a remembrance every time I read them. Best to you, Pete.
Appropriate tribute to the talented author💐
You’re welcome 😊
Lovely tribute Jennie.
Thank you, FR.
Jennie, there is such warmth and richness in your memory of your friend, Patty! What an incredible writer and a joy of your connection is a closeness which means you feel her loss keenly. No wonder this was a difficult post to start and share with us. Hugs xx
Thank you for your beautiful words, Annika! Hugs to you.
It is a special moment when an author that you have embraced is standing in front of you. What wonderful memories you have.
It really is!! I am lucky to have these memories.
She left such a wonderful legacy of a long life well lived.
She did, indeed. Thank you, Cindy.
a terrible loss to the literary world, but she left an amazing legacy.
Very much so, Beth. ❤️
What a wonderful tribute, Jennie. The only book of hers I have read is Sarah, Plain and Tall, but I am definitely going to try and find some others.
Thank you, Carla. She was one of the best writers. I hope you enjoy more of her books.
Having taught in 3rd grade for quite a few years, one of the kids’ regular books was Sarah, Plain and Tall. While it was an excellent book, I have to agree with you that The Poet’s Dog was better. Wonderful memories of Patricia, Jennie.
Oh, to read aloud Sarah, Plain and Tall to 3rd graders is a dream! We’re on the same page with books, Pete. I highly recommend My Father’s Words. Highly. I’m glad you enjoyed my memories. They’ll be with me forever.
I love hearing about how complete strangers meet organically, by chance- seems to be a rarity these days. You met someone whose life work meant so much to you and that shows in your tribute to her… may your friend, Patty, rest in peace. 💓💕
It seems ‘meant to be’ when that happens. Thanks so much, Jen.
I’m sorry to hear of Patricia’s passing, Jennie. What a legacy she left behind for future generations with her books.
She did, indeed!
I appreciated this tribute. I have never read her, apparently she wrote at a time that didn’t sync with my children’s ages. I am struck with how wonderfully the books were all illustrated. It takes a good editor/writer/illustrator team to produce such lovely works of art.
Illustrations are powerful to the words. They play a huge part in the success of a children’s book. As you said, it takes a good team. That’s why the Eric Carle Museum is such a huge success- it’s strictly the art (illustrations) of children’s books.
Patricia MacLachlan was even more successful, because she wrote both, and her books for older children were her best writing. As a dog lover, you would love them.
Thanks. I will look next time. We have an outstanding children’s library here.
A wonderful tribute Jennie and I remember your posts that have shared Patricia’s books. What an amazing legacy and the joy she must have brought to generations of children and adults..♥
Indeed, she did. And her books will live on. Thank you, Sally! 😍
She has left a wonderful legacy that will go on for generations. You have too in a very different way. It’s not any wonder that your paths would cross and connect. I loved the Poets Dog. You wrote a beautiful tribute to her.
Thank you, Marlene. I believe some things happen for a reason, and our paths crossing left me with an abundance of joy. I’m glad you enjoyed her book, and also the post. Your words are ever-kind. 💕
Hi Jennie, I read The Poet’s Dog on your recommendation and it was a beautiful story. It’s so sad when people pass on.
Hi Robbie, I’m glad you read the book! As a poet, this must have resonated with you. What a surprise ending! Yes, it is sad when people pass on, yet she writes that with a silver lining.
Hi Jennie, yes, she was a very talented lady.
Reblogged this on NEW BLOG HERE >> https:/BOOKS.ESLARN-NET.DE.
Thank you, Michael!
Thank you as well for the information, Jennie ! Its always worth to honour a writer of books for children, as they are our important treasure for the future. xx Michael
I feel the same way. Best to you, Michael.
Her works are new too me, but as i can see she was a great writer of wonderful book. Its a shame to loose her. Now all the writers of children books are challengend to forthbring her heritage with a lot of new and great books for children. May she rest in peace! Thanks for the information, Jennie! xx Michael
Beautifully said, Michael!