An American author of children's picture books and novels for middle-grade readers, Patricia MacLachlan, was born Patricia Pritzkau in Cheyenne, Wyo., March. 3, 1938, frequently focuses her stories on the family.
Sarah, Plain and Tall her spare and moving tale about a mail-order bride who profoundly influences two motherless pioneer children, won the Newbery Medal and the Scott O'Dell Historical Fiction Award. In 1994 she published a sequel, Skylark. With the exception of Tomorrow's Wizard (1982), a collection of fantastic tales, MacLachlan's books have been solidly grounded in realism. Even her early picture books bring a clear-eyed lack of sentimentality to such subjects as a loved one's blindness (Through Grandpa's Eyes, 1980) or mental illness (Mama One, Mama Two, 1982). Her themes are serious, but her stories are graced with droll humor and indelible vignettes. Many of her novels, including Arthur, for the Very First Time (1980), Cassie Binegar (1982), Unclaimed Treasures (1984), and The Facts and Fictions of Minna Pratt (1989), follow characters who grow by learning to see from another's point of view. MacLachlan's What You Know First (1995) is narrated by a small child facing her family's move to a new home. Caleb's Story (2001) is the third novel in the series begun with Sarah, Plain and Tall.