May B book reviewMay B.

By Carline Starr Rose

Grades 4-6

This is a novel told in verse.

May is on her homestead with her family until they hire her out to help a newlywed couple start their own wheat farm. The wife is not much older than May and is condescending and homesick. When the wife runs away, the husband goes after her, leaving May alone on the start-up farm with not enough to survive the big winter storm on the way.

May has never been a great reader. The book hints at dyslexia, but her learning disorder is never specified, probably because the 1800s didn’t discover it yet. The new teacher to the school is the opposite of nurturing and embarrasses May and makes her sit with the little kids. May wants to be a teacher, but her family pulls her out of school so they can make more money from her working.

The new soddy she moves into is not well built and is falling apart already. May misses home and feels uncomfortable with the couple she lives with. When they leave, she is alone for several months trying to survive on a little corn meal and a few apples, and she has to fend off hungry wolves that literally scrape at the door.

With time to herself to think, she is flooded with memories of her failure at school lessons and the abandonment she feels from her family. You literally think May is going to die. There is great suspense but it is not action. The suspense is more of a slow sense of helplessness chipping away at May’s determination to prove to everyone that she can make something of herself and survive. This is a great lesson in perseverance.

For another Caudill 2016 nominee that is written in verse, try Hidden by Helen Frost and Mountain Dog by Margarita Engle. For past award nominees in verse try Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate and All the Broken Pieces by Ann Burg.

For more frontier life try Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink, Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan, The Courage of Sarah Noble by Alice Dalgliesh, Prairie Songs by Pam Conrad, Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson, and Our Only May Amelia by Jennifer L. Holm.

Read more 2016 Caudill reviews.