Sarah Plain and Tall is what I would call a compact narrative as the all of the action is rapid and pacy but very punchy. So the story is short but well put together and the rising action is matter of fact, breezy but compassionate where it neeeds to be (mother's death.)
Although number one in a series, the action can stand on it's own as a book. Sarah, Plain and Tall concerns a brother and sister who feel very alone out there on the plains with just their dad left because their Mom died shortly after Caleb, the brother's birth and both children try to imagine her being with them still and it is obvious that the whole family is missing the touch of wife and mother. Eventually their grieving dad reluctantly advertises in the paper for a new companion and person to look after them. He receives an answer from Sarah, who just says she is 'plain and tall. ' They become pen pals, then Sarah decides to visit to see if an arrangement might suit as a good match in terms of being a new Mom. The children, Caleb and Anna are shown with suspense in the action as they wait for her, and it's sensitively shown as the action rises that Dad cheers up too. However, their issues over Sarah are shown too and punctuate the pace of the narrative. The rising action is helped by the suspense of whether it will all work out and issues such as Sarah's potential home-sickness. The action at the end is sensitive and satisfying and not too sickly sweet, bringing the story to a rewarding conclusion.