Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Away Goes Sally contains thirteen relatively short chapters with a poem written by the author, Elizabeth Coatsworth, at the end of each chapter. The poems generally concern nature and describe the season of the chapter. They appeal to the senses, conjuring up feelings of warmth. The book is written in the third person and contains much dialogue. Eleven full-page, black-and-white illustrations by Helen Sewell, adapting the technique of old woodcuts, can be found as decoration within the text. Many of them have a delicate, thin line decorative border. In addition, some pages of text contain illustrations pertinent to the story.

Sally Smith’s parents are dead, and she lives on a farm in Massachusetts with her mother’s three sisters—Aunt Nannie, Aunt Deborah, and Aunt Esther—and two brothers—Uncle Joseph and Uncle Eben—in a close-knit family. Aunt Nannie is the oldest of the sisters and is the most decisive, while Aunt Deborah cannot readily make a decision. Aunt Esther, the youngest, is pretty and curious. Aunt Nannie is the head of everything that goes on in the house, while Uncle Joseph is the head of everything outside the house, such as the farm.

Uncle Joseph receives a letter from Cousin Ephraim Hallet, who has moved to Maine. Ephraim invites them to settle there, where land is cheap and more opportunities exist for them than in Massachusetts. Uncle Joseph is in favor of going, and all the other family members eventually approve of the move—except for Aunt Nannie, who declares that she will never leave her own house or her own fire nor sleep in any bed but her own. Joseph is firm about going, but Nannie is just as firm about staying. She would like to relent, but she has taken her stand.

One winter day, Joseph arranges to have Sally and the sisters visit a great-aunt. When they come home, they see a strange sight. Unbeknown to them, Joseph has built a little house on runners, to be pulled by oxen, for Nannie. In this way, she can travel to Maine and never leave her own fire. Aunt Nannie is surprised and replies that she will go willingly. The rest of the book concerns what happens on their journey to Maine.