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May B.

May B.

4.3 18
by Caroline Starr Rose

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"If May is a brave, stubborn fighter, the short, free-verse lines are one-two punches in this Laura Ingalls Wilder-inspired ode to the human spirit." — Kirkus Reviews, Starred

I've known it since last night:
It's been too long to expect them to return. 
Something's happened.

May is helping out on a neighbor's Kansas


"If May is a brave, stubborn fighter, the short, free-verse lines are one-two punches in this Laura Ingalls Wilder-inspired ode to the human spirit." — Kirkus Reviews, Starred

I've known it since last night:
It's been too long to expect them to return. 
Something's happened.

May is helping out on a neighbor's Kansas prairie homestead—just until Christmas, says Pa. She wants to contribute, but it's hard to be separated from her family by 15 long, unfamiliar miles. Then the unthinkable happens: May is abandoned. Trapped in a tiny snow-covered sod house, isolated from family and neighbors, May must prepare for the oncoming winter. While fighting to survive, May's memories of her struggles with reading at school come back to haunt her. But she's determined to find her way home again. Caroline Starr Rose's fast-paced novel, written in beautiful and riveting verse, gives readers a strong new heroine to love.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Set on the Kansas prairie in the 19th century, this debut novel in verse presents a harrowing portrait of pioneer life through the perspective of 12-year-old Mavis Elizabeth Betterly, called May B. After a disappointing harvest, May’s family sends her 15 miles away to help a farmer and his new bride (“She’s fancy and tall,/ but I’ve caught it right away—/ she’s hardly older than I”). May bravely faces the loss of family and the opportunity to attend school, until a homesick Mrs. Oblinger runs off for Ohio and Mr. Oblinger follows, leaving May completely alone. The spare free-verse poems effectively sketch this quietly courageous heroine, the allure and dangers of the open prairie, and the claustrophobic sod house setting. Tension mounts as the weather worsens and supplies dwindle. May’s struggle with reading is particularly affecting, and readers will recognize her unnamed and poorly understood difficulty as dyslexia. Writing with compassion and a wealth of evocative details, Rose offers a memorable heroine and a testament to the will to survive. Ages 8–12. Agent: Martha Kaplan Agency. (Jan.)
From the Publisher
Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 2011:
"If May is a brave, stubborn fighter, the short, free-verse lines are one-two punches in this Laura Ingalls Wilder–inspired ode to the human spirit."

Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, December 5, 2011:
"Writing with compassion and a wealth of evocative details, Rose offers a memorable heroine and a testament to the will to survive."

Children's Literature - Peg Glisson
Twelve-year-old Mavis Elizabeth Betterly, May B. for short, is the "dispensable one," sent 15 miles away by her cash-stripped parents to tend house for Mr. Oblinger and his young bride. "Why not Hiram? I think, / but I already know: / boys are necessary." Fearful of being away from her family for the first time, of living in such close quarters with strangers, and of losing time at school where she struggles with reading, she has no choice but to go and is understandably bitter. Only "till Christmas," Pa promises before leaving her at Oblinger's small home. Mr. Oblinger is friendly enough, but Mrs. Oblinger is clearly ill at ease in her new prairie surroundings and is coldly remote. May's there only a few weeks before Mrs. Oblinger runs away and Mr. Oblinger leaves in pursuit, giving nary a thought to May B. Isolated and alone, May is determined to survive until her father returns; but as her food supply dwindles and the weather turns, she is tormented by hunger, wolves, and the solitude—and by her struggles as she works on her reading. As time is running out on her ability to survive, May B. is forced to make some critical decisions that lead to a harrowing survival tale. Hauntingly told in spare free verse, Rose nails the time and place while beautifully developing May B. Rose acknowledges her own love of Laura Ingalls Wilder's prairie stories; this is an excellent choice for older readers who also loved those books, as well as for those who like historical fiction or coming of age tales. May's reading difficulties most likely would be diagnosed as dyslexia today; her attempts to master reading were yet another way of demonstrating her brave, stubborn nature which ultimately allowed her to survive. Memorable, powerful, and highly recommended! Reviewer: Peg Glisson
School Library Journal
Gr 3–6—Times are tough on the Kansas prairie so May's family hires her out to tend house at a farm 15 miles away for the fall. Pa reminds the unhappy child that he'll be back to get her by Christmas. May knows that she'll be one less mouth to feed, but still can't bear the thought of leaving. She finds herself away from her parents and brother Hiram for the first time, and in a strange household, with a cold, unhappy bride from Ohio who cannot adjust to the hardships of prairie life. When Mrs. Oblinger runs away, and her husband sets off to bring her back, neither return, and May is left alone for several months, fighting the harsh elements and hunger and threatened by wolves, the trajectory of her story takes an unexpected turn. In desperation, she sets off on her own to get home. A subplot of May's internal struggle to teach herself to read despite an unnamed learning disability is believably realized and interspersed throughout. (The author's note indicates that dyslexia was, of course, unknown at the time.) Told in spare, vivid verse, May's story works on many levels; as a survival story, a coming-of-age tale, and a worthwhile next read for "Little House on the Prairie" fans.—Jill Heritage Maza, Montclair Kimberley Academy, Montclair, NJ
Kirkus Reviews
As unforgiving as the western Kansas prairies, this extraordinary verse novel--Rose's debut--paints a gritty picture of late-19th-century frontier life from the perspective of a 12-year-old dyslexic girl named Mavis Elizabeth Betterly… May B. for short. Between May and her brother Hiram, she's the dispensable one: "Why not Hiram? I think, / but I already know: / boys are necessary." Ma and Pa, hurting for money, hire out their daughter to the Oblingers, a newlywed couple who've just homesteaded 15 miles west--just until Christmas, Pa promises. May is bitter: "I'm helping everyone / except myself." She has trouble enough at school with her cumbersome reading without missing months… and how can she live in such close quarters with strangers? A misshapen sod house, Mr. Oblinger and his wife, a miserable teenager in a flaming red dress, greet her as "Pa tucks money / inside his shirt pocket." This sad-enough tale crescendos to a hair-raising survival story when May is inexplicably abandoned and left in complete isolation to starve… just until Christmas? Snowed in and way past the last apple, May thinks, "It is hard to tell what is sun, / what is candle, / what is pure hope." If May is a brave, stubborn fighter, the short, free-verse lines are one-two punches in this Laura Ingalls Wilder–inspired ode to the human spirit. (Historical fiction. 9-14)

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.59(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.85(d)
680L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

CAROLINE STARR ROSE spent her childhood in the deserts of Saudi Arabia and New Mexico, camping at the Red Sea in one and eating red chile in the other. As a girl she danced ballet, raced through books by Laura Ingalls, and put on magic shows in a homemade cape. She graduated from the University of New Mexico and went on to teach both social studies and English in New Mexico, Florida, Virginia, and Louisiana. In her classroom, she worked to instill in her students a passion for books, the freedom to experiment with words, and a curiosity about the past. Visit her at carolinestarrrose.com.

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May B 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book and was expecting an interesting novel. Instead of becoming one with the story, I yawned and silently booed. The ending was predictable and not fulfilling
VeraciousRose More than 1 year ago
Mavis Elizabeth Betterly (May B. for short) lives on the Kansas prairie where there are not enough trees to provide wood to build a house, so chunks of sod is cut from the ground and piled up like bricks to make walls. After her family hires her out to help a young couple until Christmas, May B. finds herself stranded alone in their remote soddy with nothing but her own strength and determination to get home somehow. Caroline Starr Rose is a master at making every word count – I could smell the mud dripping from the ceiling when it rained, hear the wolves scrabbling at the ice, felt my stomach grumbled when that last apple was gone. In today’s busy, cluttered world, it’s hard for children to imagine what our pioneering ancestors went through, but Caroline Starr Rose captures the harsh reality of life on the prairie and the courage needed to survive. May B. would be an important addition to any middle grade class curriculum, and as its starred Kirkus review already suggests, it belongs in every school and public library
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book has made history even better. I skyped the author and she told me all about her inspiration for all of it. She thinks it is great to write a book,but you need to have a year to write and publish it.
Kimmiepoppins More than 1 year ago
May B is the perfect mix of Laurie Halse Anderson's historical fiction, Ellen Hopkins' seamless and moving poetry and the world of Laura Ingalls Wilder. I instantly connected with the character of May, but I fell in love with the book when I realized that May was dyslexic. As a mom of a child with dyslexia, I have to say that Caroline Starr Rose got it right. This book, in conjunction with Rose's additional information available for teachers, should easily make this book a fixture on teacher's lesson plans and on classroom book shelves. May B is a quiet book that is an exciting read--an amazing combination. Don't miss this one
JoanneLevy More than 1 year ago
Like Ellen Hopkins's or Lisa Schroeder's books in verse, each word in MAY B. is obviously carefully chosen and placed in such a way that not one is wasted and each means so much. Although this is a fast read, it's still a substantial one, full of tension and moving scenes, and I felt like my heart had been both pulled through the wringer and filled with joy in the afternoon it took me to read. MAY B. is about a very determined girl whose heartbreaking story is one of survival, self-discovery and great fortitude. May is faced with the almost impossible task of keeping herself alive when abandoned in a sod house on the harsh prairie. May lives in a simpler, yet often harsher era in history, but her pluck and determination are timeless, and I think anyone will find much to love in this beautiful book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Didnot rread but want to
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Most book is so amazing that's why I put three statlrs
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If abraham lincoln came back to life the first thing he would do is read this amazing book
LyndaMH More than 1 year ago
I won't give a synopsis because others have done that already. What I will say is that this is one amazing book. Seriously. The language is so sparse, yet the visuals are so great. The emotion palatable. The character fully developed. I very much enjoyed MAY B. Will recommend highly to others—including reluctant readers.
ReadingCorner More than 1 year ago
In her debut novel, Caroline Starr Rose bring to life the struggles of living on the early American prairie--the isolation, the poverty, and the unknown. Life for May B. and her family has never been particularly easy, so when the opportunity for May to earn a little on a neighboring farm is presented, her parents would be crazy to pass it up. So May is sent to live with the Oblingers until Christmas to help the new missus get on her feet. However, things go all wrong when Mrs. Oblinger up and leaves and Mr. Oblinger goes after her...leaving May B. to fend for herself as winter rapidly approaches. May B. is a fierce and resourceful young woman. I really enjoyed watching her develop as a character. She refuses to be ruled by her learning disability--continuing to dream of someday being a teacher despite her struggles with reading. Her determination to learn to read was also just one example of how strong she was. When she's left alone by the Oblingers, she proves incredibly resourceful when it comes to survival, despite her initial elation at not having to answer to anyone else's demands. When she finally leave the cottage in an attempt to get home, the reader senses that she truly feels that she has no choice. As someone who has always been a bit leery of novels in verse, I have to say that Ms. Rose was immensely successful in telling her story with this method. The novel lends itself to quick reading and an easy-to-imagine story. What really caught my attention is that this would be a fantastic novel to give a young person who struggles with reading. The words create vivid imagery and tell a compelling story without an overabundance of words. The simplicity should appeal to struggling readers without making them feel like they're being given an easy book because they can't read well. May B. is a novel that has the potential to appeal to a vast group of readers. Whether you're looking for something to give to a struggling reader or that young fan of historical fiction, Caroline Starr Rose has created a gem that you'll love to share.
ToReadPerchancetoDream More than 1 year ago
May B. by Caroline Starr Rose is an absolutely lovely novel written in verse. I had never read a novel in verse before, but this was done so well, reading it was pure pleasure. The story flowed effortlessly, the scenes described in detail such that I felt the cold of the blizzard. May B. is a strong young girl to whom all young readers can relate. She is mad at her parents for sending her away to help another family, but she loves and misses them anyway. She has trouble reading, so she keeps working hard at it to show her teacher that she can do it. She is left alone and afraid, yet she is able to take care of herself and survive. This book reminded me of the Little House on the Prairie series that I loved reading as I grew up. I found out at the end of May B. that the author was also inspired by the series, leading her to write her own take on life in Kansas in the prairie days. This novel is bound to become a favorite for any child, especially young girls! I received this book from the publisher, through Netgalley.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is the best book ever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Whats happenin ppl?. I wanna talk...whos with me?.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was good