Finest Kind

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It's 1838. Jake's father has lost his job and his savings. Hearing of work in Maine, the family leaves their large home in Boston and heads north, taking with them a few furnishings — and a deep family secret. In Maine they find only a dirty, isolated farmhouse, and a job for Father that takes him away from home.

"I'll have to depend on you," Jake's mother tells him. But how can Jake find food? How can...

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It's 1838. Jake's father has lost his job and his savings. Hearing of work in Maine, the family leaves their large home in Boston and heads north, taking with them a few furnishings — and a deep family secret. In Maine they find only a dirty, isolated farmhouse, and a job for Father that takes him away from home.

"I'll have to depend on you," Jake's mother tells him. But how can Jake find food? How can he prepare for the dangerous cold of a Maine winter? How can he protect his mother — and his family's secret?

Slowly, Jake learns the ways to survive, catching game and storing food for the long winter months. Nabby McCord, whose family also has a secret, helps him. So does Granny McPherson, who may be a witch. But when it comes to earning the money they need, Jake knows he's on his own. He shows his determination as the winter approaches, but does he have what it takes to bring his family together to face the future — and their past?

Finest Kind is the powerful story of a boy who is forced to become a man and to learn the truth about courage, friendship, and secrets.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Amie Rose Rotruck
When Jake's father loses his job at the bank after the Panic of 1831, Jake and his family have to change their lifestyle drastically. They leave their fine home in Boston and move into a very small house in Maine. Jake's father is gone for days at a time (and eventually months) because of his job, so it falls to Jake and his mother to learn how to live in a country where you cannot just purchase food. They must also hide Frankie, Jake's younger brother who is severely disabled, for fear of being ostracized. With the help of Nabby, a girl from a mysterious family, Jake learns how to find food. He gets a job at the local jail and begins to adjust to this new life. Still, the strain of keeping Frankie a secret wears on Jake. Wait tackles a lot of historical issues in this work (the failure of banks, life in the Maine countryside, treatment of prisoners and the mentally disabled, to name a few), and handles all of them extremely well. Jake's transformation from spoiled Boston rich kid to capable country boy is realistic and extremely engaging.
School Library Journal
Gr 4-8-Jake's father has lost his job and savings in the economic panic of 1837. The family leaves its comfortable Boston surroundings and takes up residence in a dingy farmhouse in Wiscasset, ME, where the 12-year-old finds himself responsible for the household. With his father working as a lumberman and his mother caring for his younger brother, who has cerebral palsy, Jake carries the additional burden of keeping his sibling's existence a secret. He soon learns to trust his instincts and finds help and support from social outcasts. Granny McPherson, deemed a witch because of her herbal remedies; Nabby McCord, left to care for her younger siblings due to her alcoholic mother and seafaring father; and Simon, the kind, dim-witted handyman, help showcase the superstitious attitude toward differences that prevailed during this period. Although Jake at times appears too altruistic and resilient, he is still a believable protagonist. The native colloquialisms, use of actual people and events, and well-researched historical information keep the evenly paced plot appealing and the ending uplifting. Ben Mikaelsen's Petey (Hyperion, 1998), Katherine Paterson's Jip, His Story (Lodestar, 1996), and Cynthia DeFelice's The Apprenticeship of Lucas Whitaker (Farrar, 1996) offer more in-depth pictures of some of the atrocities directed at those who are considered different. Wait's forthright tone and clear writing make this novel accessible to a wide audience.-D. Maria LaRocco, Cuyahoga Public Library, Strongsville, OH Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Living in Boston, 12-year-old Jake Webber and his family were used to fine parties, music, candles and elegant clothes, and Jake was responsible only for going to school, being polite and staying out of the way. But after the Panic of 1837, Mr. Webber loses his job and, suddenly poor, his family moves to Maine to a tiny house found for them by Cousin Ben. With Father away at his new job in the mill and Mother tending to six-year-old Frankie, who has mysterious fits and whom they keep a secret from neighbors, Jake must take on manly responsibilities if they are to survive. Through hard work and the help of a colorful cast of characters, Jake learns that, despite their hard circumstances, life in Maine can be the "finest kind," the best of the best. Well-written with loving detail about life in coastal Maine and a lesson clearly taught about the importance of friends and community, this is a story that will linger in the hearts of readers. (historical notes) (Fiction. 8-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416909521
  • Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
  • Publication date: 10/10/2006
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 1,449,994
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 680L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Lea Wait made her mystery debut with Shadows at the Fair, which was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel. Shadows on the Ivy, the third novel in her acclaimed series featuring Maggie Summer, is forthcoming in hardcover from Scribner. Lea comes from a long line of antiques dealers, and has owned an antique print business for more than twenty-five years. The single adoptive mother of four Asian girls who are now grown, she lives in Edgecomb, Maine. In addition to the Antique Print mysteries, Lea Wait writes historical fiction for young readers. Her first children's book, Stopping to Home, was named a Notable Book for Children in 2001 by Smithsonian magazine.
Visit her website at

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2006

    You actually feel the struggle of this kid.

    I HAD to finish reading this book. I needed to know how the family turned out. I am not a big fan of historic fiction, but I did love this book. You feel their pain, hardships, and struggle.

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