Monday, November 5, 2012

Review: May B by Caroline Starr Rose

I love that more novels are being written in free verse and other poetic forms.  The lyrical nature of these books really adds another level of tone to the stories they tell and I can't get enough.  Thankfully, I stumbled on to May B. at our library at school and decided to check it out.  Yes, it's 200+ pages, but it sucked me in and had me finishing it up in one reading.

Synopsis:  As a young girl living on the prairies of western Kansas, May Betts knew she came in second to her brother in importance to her parents.  At a time in the late 1800's, when children were needed to keep a farm and survival together for the entire family, May is no exception.  In need of some extra money, she is sent off to live with another family 15 miles to the west.  In that experience May learns how to really survive.

Review:  Extremely reminiscent of Little House on the Prairie, the story of May Betts is one that is touching and haunting all at the same time.  May B (as she is nicknamed) is a young girl in western Kansas with a thirst to learn and read, but something just isn't right, and she just can't fit the words together.  Because of that, she is labeled as not very bright.  She knows that can't be the case, but doesn't get a chance to find out before she is whisked off to a homesteader's home 15 miles to the west, to a farm that is so isolated that all they can see is prairie stretching out on all sides.

Many things happen to May B while at the homestead that leads to her growing up much too quickly and needing to be an adult who must fight for her very survival.  I loved the way the free verse in the text helped to create more of the isolation we felt from her surroundings and the isolation she felt in a new home.  Interspersed with scenes of mere survival were memories and snapshots of her struggle to learn that makes it all even more haunting.  Besides scenes of making biscuits and keeping dry under a table in the dugout, we see May B struggling to eek out the words in the little schoolbook she brought with her. 

This story about drove me into anxiety.  I loved it and couldn't stop turning pages, but I was tormented by the loneliness, frustration, and fear that drove this little girl.  I realize that this really is a story about determination and the power of the human spirit, but it was gut wrenching to get there.  Despite it all, I think this story and the way it was told was just amazing.  Whether you're new to these verse stories or not, you really must read this story.

*FTC Disclosure:  This review was based on a library copy of the novel.


  1. Books in verse always intimidate me, although logically I know they're not any more difficult to read than prose books.

  2. I really want to give this a try. I have heard good things.