Wintering Well

Written by Lea Wait
Review by Janette King

Wintering Well tackles the issue of physical disability in rural Maine around 1820. Twelve-year-old Will Ames loses a leg in an accident just as he is happily on the brink of joining his father and brothers to work the family farm. Will is disgusted by his new condition, and feels every inch as helpless as everyone says he must be. Even Will’s own father thinks he’ll only be a drain on the family’s resources. Largely through the compassionate care of his eleven-year-old sister, Cassie, Will is encouraged to consider new goals for his life. As he becomes more able to navigate with the use of a wooden leg, he begins to see that there are things that he is capable of doing. Author Wait floats several possibilities Will’s way, even ones he doesn’t appear to notice.

Though the tale sometimes verges on a contemporary story set in historic times, Wintering Well draws a realistic glimpse into domestic life in the 19th century. I love that some of the characters used—though not the central family—were actually based on real people of the same name living in Wiscasset, Maine. (Even the bullies’ comeuppance is based on a historically true event.) But what this book does best is show that seemingly insurmountable problems can have creative solutions. (Ages 8-12)