From School Library Journal
Grade 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
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It's 1838, and 12-year-old Jake Webber must make a difficult move from Maine to Boston after his father loses his job. Their new home is shabby and isolated, and their new life is a far cry from their former privileged one. Worse, Dad's new logging job keeps him away from home, leaving Jake to care for his mother and disabled younger brother, Frankie, who his parents keep secret, fearing public rejection. It's a heavy burden, but with unexpected support from townsfolk, including outcast healer Granny McPherson and neighbor Nabby, who has family burdens of her own, Jake finds courage, inner strength, and a new appreciation of family and friendships. Wait's prose is straightforward, the story is filled with diverse characters and period details, and Jake is an appealing, dimensional protagonist, whose challenges are sympathetically portrayed. An author's note provides background on the times and place. Shelle RosenfeldCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved