It’s the fall of 1838. Twelve-year-old Jake Webber and his family have arrived in Wiscasset, Maine, from Boston. Jake’s father has lost his job because of the Panic of 1837 and has been forced to take a job at a saw mill. This is a reversal of fortune for the Webbers, who lived in a large home in Boston and employed servants. Jake has a lot to cope with as winter approaches, including finding food for himself, his mother, and the crippled brother his family keeps a secret from neighbors. Over the course of the winter, Jake makes friends with a neighbor girl, Nabby, who teaches him survival skills, and he slowly adjusts to his new life in the country. He displays great courage and proves himself to be the “finest kind” of young man in the eyes of both his family and his new community.
Jake is a likable character. I particularly enjoyed the historical notes at the end of the book in which the author reveals that some of the supporting characters are based on real people. Lea Wait skillfully shows the impact of historic events on one family in a way that will keep young readers interested.