Posted by: kidsbooksreviews | April 25, 2008

Finest Kind by Lea Wait

Finest Kind is a story about a family in 1837 that faces financial ruin, and is forced to move to rural Maine to pick up the pieces. Jake’s father takes a job that has him spending extended periods of time away from home, and Jake finds himself responsible for supporting his mother and six year old brother, who is severely disabled.

Some of the themes of this book include family, stereotypes, how people with disabilities were treated in the past, medical advancements, and keeping secrets. These secrets include hiding Jake’s brother’s condition, and another character’s alcoholic mother. The alcoholism is only briefly mentioned towards the end of the book. At one point it is mentioned that Jake’s parents have been blamed for his brother’s condition due to their “sins”, but this is not expanded upon.  Jake also takes a job working in a prison, cleaning cells.  None of the inmates are depicted as being truly horrible.  Beyond that, there are no controversial issues in the book.

I would use this book as a springboard for discussion on the rights of the disabled, how far we’ve come, and how far we have yet to go.  The author’s note at the end of the book includes several topics that could be researched and expanded upon, as well.

This book is a 2008-2009 Mark Twain Award Nominee.

Amazon.com lists the reading level as appropriate for ages 9-12.

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