Simon & Schuster
Eleven-year-old Abbie and her younger brother, Seth, have lost their mother to smallpox and their father to the sea. It is 1806, in the Maine seaport of Wiscasset, and with no family to watch out for them, Abbie and Seth must find a new life. Working for the young widow of a sea captain may be a temporary answer – but only if Seth stays out of trouble and Widow Chase finds a way to support herself. As the months go by Abbie and Seth find more questions than answers, until Abbie has an idea that may be the solution for all of them. But first Widow Chase must listen, and Seth must leave the past behind.
Kirkus Reviews: “A quiet tale of love and belonging .. a lyrical text that deftly and painlessly weaves into Abbie’s deeply personal story observations about the social and cultural structures of this small, seafaring town .. a novel finely crafted, with a nearly perfect sense of its setting in place and time.”
Teachers and Librarians:
Lexile: 710L Accelerated Reader Points: 4.0
Historical Events in Stopping to Home:
Although Wiscasset, Maine, is now a small town, in 1806, when it was a part of the District of Maine in the wilderness area of Massachusetts, it was the largest port north of Boston. Located on the bank of a deep salt river, surrounded by farms, down river from heavily forested pine woods, it was the perfect home base for ships involved in the “salt and spar” trade with Europe. Ships took tall pine masts (“spars”) to France, Germany and Spain, and brought valuable European goods back to Massachusetts (including the District of Maine.) Mariners from all over the world walked its streets and wharves. In 1806, the year before Jefferson’s Embargo changed everything by forbidding international trade, Wiscasset, Maine, was a place money could be made. (Common Core Standard: Influence of setting on characters and plot; Concept of place; Economic systems)
Although people in Wiscasset helped each other (e.g. Doc Ames taking Abbie and Seth to the Chase home,) there were also big differences between men and women (when in need of money, upper class Widow Chase was not expected to get a job to support herself, as a man or a lower class woman could have) and between the rich and the poor (children at school made fun of the way Abbie and Seth were dressed; Abbie had to work to support herself; she worries how her father, a mariner, would act in Widow Chase’s home.) (Common Core Standards: Interdependence of households; compare and contrast different households; beliefs about the roles of women, children, orphans, the poor, African-Americans have changed in the past two hundred years. Medical practices have changed: no hospitals; most people are not inoculated against diseases like smallpox; babies are born at home.)
Abbie and Seth do not know if their grandmother or father are alive, or where they are. (Common Core Standards: changes in communication since the early 19th century.) Abbie has several problems (taking care of Seth; trying to stay with Widow Chase; trying to continue her education; ensuring Widow Chase has enough money) and is creative enough to come up with solutions to them. (Common Core Standards: defining problems and solutions)
Village Square, Wiscasset, Maine
Throughout the book we see, through Abbie’s eyes (point of view) the turning seasons, the way Wiscasset people live, work, eat, praise God, celebrate holidays, and plan for the future. (Common Core Standards: some of the holidays celebrated, like Muster Day, are no longer celebrated. The Fourth of July, birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s are celebrated differently than we do today: traditions have changed over the years.)
Note: Lea Wait’s book Seaward Born tells Noah’s story, from his point of view. As Noah is a minor character in Stopping to Home, Abbie and Seth are minor characters in Seaward Born. An interesting point of view exercise would be to compare and contrast the appropriate chapters in the two books, which show two sides of the story.
New vocabulary words in Stopping to Home:
Compare and contrast what Abbie and Seth do to help Widow Chase and what you do to help your family.
What would happen to Abbie and Seth today if their mother died and their father could not be found?
The carved eider duck is a symbol. What is it a symbol of? When does Abbie touch it? What does it mean to her?
What did the town of Wiscasset look like in 1806? Draw a map of the town based on the information in Stopping to Home.
What do you think happened to Abbie and Seth after Stopping to Home ended? Why?
Making quilts was a way women used up scraps of material and demonstrated their artistic abilities at the same time they were making something useful. No time or material wasted! Design a quilt square based on one of the scenes in Stopping to Home.
Do you wear a hat? When, and what kind? Find a book on the history of clothing, or costume, and see what hats Widow Chase, Mr. Bowman, Abbie, and Seth would have worn. Why do you think people wore hats most of the time in 1806?