Lea Wait

Teacher Guide: Finest Kind
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Set in 1838, the plot of Finest Kind is set in motion as a result of the Panic of 1837. (Common Core Standard: Economic System of the United States.)

Jake and his family leave their upper class home in Boston and arrive on the outskirts of rural Wiscasset because they have a relative in the area. (Common Core Standards: Interdependence of Households; Economic Consequences of Personal Decisions) Their son Frankie was born severely disabled, and, afraid they would be judged sinful because of his birth (Common Core Standard: Change in Beliefs Over Time) they've always hidden him. Here in the countryside that will be more difficult.

Jake’s father must live at the mill where he works. Since his mother must stay with Frankie, Jake must find food and learn about the community on his own. He meets Nabby, a girl who’s also hiding a family secret and trying to keep her family together. (No organizations or government are helping these children – more changes in beliefs.) Nabby’s friend Simon, an intellectually disabled adult, and Granny McPherson, an old woman who many in town believe is a witch, are two people who help both Nabby and Jake. Their relationships with the community would be an interesting discussion on the interdependence of the community 

Window in Lincoln County Jail
Jake deals with Tom, a local bully, and gets a job at the county jail, where he meets the Burke family, a couple there because they might have cholera and are being kept quarantined. (Again, changes in beliefs.) Simon ends up in the jail, too, when he misunderstands and takes medicine for Frankie. And there are people judged insane in the jail. Again ...

During the book Halloween is mentioned as a holiday usually celebrated abroad, and at the end of the story, there is a celebration of Christmas in which Dr. Theobold, a second generation German immigrant, has a small Christmas tree – the first any in the story have ever seen. Traditions are changing.



New vocabulary words in Finest Kind: 

  • teamster
  • apothecary
  • coaster
  • cholera
  • clouts
  • pallets
  • afflicted

Lincoln County Jail and Jailor's Home


How does the relationship between Jake and Frankie change as the story continues?

Jake’s family has a secret. But there are other secrets in Finest Kind, too. What is Nabby’s family’s secret? Father’s secret? 

Do you think Simon should have been put in jail? Why, or why not? 

The mirror Father gives Mother for Christmas is a symbol. What is it a symbol of? 

In Finest Kind people in Wiscasset celebrate Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. How are their celebrations different from the way we celebrate today? 

Granny McPherson lives by herself, far from the village. Do any people today choose to live by themselves? Who? Why? 

Granny is an old woman. Do you think people would have thought she was a witch if she were young and pretty? 

How are people like Simon treated today? 

Do you think Simon would have been treated differently if he had lived in a city instead of in a small town? 

No one, not even Dr. Theobold, can make Frankie’s fits stop. Are there any physical problems or diseases today that no one can cure? Do you think some day they will be curable? 

Compare and contrast Jake’s life in Boston and his life in Maine. In Maine he had to learn many things he hadn’t had to know in Boston. What were some of those things? Which things do you think were the hardest for him to learn 

Jake would like Tom to be his friend. Why do you think Tom is often mean to him? Do you think they will ever be friends? Why or why not? 

What do you think Jake will choose to do in the future? Do you think he will stay in Maine, go back to live in Boston, or live somewhere else? What will he choose to do as an adult? 


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