Friday, April 10, 2009

Finest Kind by Lea Wait **

I came upon this book when I saw the Mark Twain Award nominees on my son's school's website. All the books had brief synapses & a was surprised that 3 of the nominees were about siblings of children with developmental disabilities. Since Lea Wait was the only one of the three authors who'd written before, I chose that book first.
I was very disappointed with the woodenness of the writing, but I had to remind myself that this book was written for 8-12 year olds & maybe that's why she kept the language so simple. But I have to say that overall, it was disappointing.
The story is about a young boy named Jake who travels to rural Maine with his family in 1838. Jake grew up in Boston in a privileged home, but the fall of the stock market brought about financial ruin. His family sold their fancy house & have moved to Maine in search of a job for his father.
Jake's brother Frankie has what would be called cerebral palsy now. He has frequent seizures & at age 6 is not able to communicate or move independently. The family is ashamed of Frankie's condition & try to hide his existence from their few neighbors. When Jake's dad gets work at a mill in another town, the family suddenly realizes that they will have to fend for themselves without the father's help, since he can only come home on weekends. And that means Jake will have to do most of the work, since his mother must stay home & take care of his brother.
Bottom line, it was hard to have much sympathy for the characters. I think it's a great history book for kids, which may be it's primary goal, even though I question some of the sugar-coating. From the stand point of an accurate portrayal of developmental disabilities, it was fair. It wasn't very historically accurate in the town's acceptance of Frankie, but maybe I'm being too harsh.

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