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All Will Ames ever wanted to do was farm. But when he's injured in a farm accident, Will is left without a leg -- and without his future.

There's no place on a farm for a cripple. And so, after a long winter of healing, Will and his sister Cassie, who blames herself for the accident, go to stay in town with their older sister and her husband. There, as Maine becomes a state, Will learns that perhas even without his leg, there's another, brighter future in store for him. And Cassie, too, learns that maybe, in the changing world of 1820, Will isn't the only one with the chance at a different, exciting future. . . .

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.
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

"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

  • 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 Master List
  • Mark Twain Award Final Nominee (MO)

More books from this author: Lea Wait