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Wintering Well

About The Book

"What happened this afternoon is too terrible to write...Please, God, let Will live. And please, God, forgive me."

Cassie's journal opens her dramatic story and that of her older brother Will, as they are both forced to reexamine their lives after a farm accident leaves Will without a leg -- and without hope.

After a winter of healing, Will knows his future must be away from the farm that he loves. He and Cassie go to stay with their older sister and her husband in the nearby town of Wiscasset. There, with the excitement of Maine's new statehood as a backdrop, Will finds that being disabled can be a social handicap as well as physical one. But with hard work he can win respect -- and find exciting possibilities for his future.

Living in town opens Cassie's eyes too. She sees Will considering career options not open to her, and she wonders if she can be fulfilled by keeping a house and a family. Are there other possibilities for a young woman in 1820? As Cassie watches Will make his life decisions, she struggles to find her own place in the world.

From the author of Stopping to Home and Seaward Born comes this remarkable story of hardship, determination, and the joy of finding the right path in life.

Reading Group Guide

The door to Will's cherished plans has been closed forever. What now lies ahead for him? After an awful accident, fifteen-year-old Will must decide what to do with his life. As he discovers his talent, his sister, Cassie, also learns there are more opportunities a young woman can pursue.
Family life; Brothers and sisters; People with disabilities
• Why did Will's father tell him he could never be a farmer?
• What skill did Will acquire to help pass time?
• What kinds of opportunities were offered to Will in the city?
• Who did Will carve at the end of the story?
• How is life different in this book, set in the 1820s, than it is today?
• How do you think you would cope with such a disappointment as Will has in this book?
• How would the story be different if Will's accident occurred in modern times?
• What does it mean to "winter well"? How does this expression apply to Cassie and Will's story?
• Since Will enjoyed whittling animals, make your favorite animal out of molding clay.
• Make Dr. Theobold's wife's favorite flower, a rose.
• Serve cider and molasses cakes after reading the description from the book.
• Several topics for research are available in the Historical Notes and in the book: Wiscasset, Maine; early medical procedures; Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell; Thanksgiving; New England farming techniques; ship figureheads; apothecaries.
• Design/sketch a figurehead you'd like to see on a ship.
This reading group guide is for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.
Prepared by Lori Swiercinsky
© William Allen White Children's Book Award
Please visit for more information about the awards and to see curriculum guides for other master list titles.

About The Author

Photo Credit:

Lea Wait made her mystery debut with Shadows at the Fair, which was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel. Shadows on the Ivy, the third novel in her acclaimed series featuring Maggie Summer, is forthcoming in hardcover from Scribner. Lea comes from a long line of antiques dealers, and has owned an antique print business for more than twenty-five years. The single adoptive mother of four Asian girls who are now grown, she lives in Edgecomb, Maine. In addition to the Antique Print mysteries, Lea Wait writes historical fiction for young readers. Her first children's book, Stopping to Home, was named a Notable Book for Children in 2001 by Smithsonian magazine.
Visit her website at

Product Details

  • Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (May 11, 2010)
  • Length: 192 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781439136287
  • Ages: 8 - 12

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Raves and Reviews

"A treasure waiting to be found." -- Kirkus Reviews

"Authentic historical details enrich the already fine writing." -- Kirkus Reviews

"The . . . message of triumph over adversity is . . . uplifting." -- School Library Journal

"Limned with just the right amount of detail." -- Booklist

Awards and Honors

  • William Allen White Children's Book Award Reading List (KS)
  • PSLA Fiction List
  • Maine Student Book Award Reading List
  • Great Stone Face Book Award Nominee (NH)
  • SSLI Book Award Honor Book
  • Volunteer State Book Award Nominee (TN)
  • Massachusetts Children's Book Award Nominee
  • Mark Twain Award Final Nominee (MO)

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More books from this author: Lea Wait