“I watch the wagon
until I see nothing on the open plain.
For the first time ever,
I am alone.”
– May B.
A little reminiscent of Laura Ingalls Wilder and the “Little House on the Prairie” series, “May B.” by Caroline Starr Rose is the author’s first novel written completely in free-verse prose. Not many novels can boast this fact and rarely is it a debut novel.
The main character of this groundbreaking first novel is 12-year-old Mavis Elizabeth Betterly, or May B. for short. May B. and her family are short on money, so her parents loan her out to a newlywed couple, Mr. and Mrs. Oblinger whose home is fifteen miles west, just until Christmas.
She laments the fact that her brother Hiram wasn’t offered to the couple instead of her but unfortunately, she knows that in 19th century Kansas, “boys are necessary”. However, she invariably becomes stranded by the unhappy couple in their house during a blizzard to face the harsh Kansas prairie winter alone.
Her food supply runs out quickly and as she struggles to survive, she is faced with flashbacks of her troubles with dyslexia that she wrestled with at school and it suddenly not only becomes a fight for physical safety but for her own emotional well-being.
Rose convincingly pulls off the prose, as the descriptions are vivid and as readers, we begin to feel the utter despair that May B. feels. “It is hard to tell what is sun, what is candle, and what is pure hope,” she thinks as she struggles for food and her inner demons.
Can she make her way back home? In what is this short but touching tale of hope and survival, “May B.” is a lesson for all of our kids. Rose highlights the indefatigable human spirit; the kids that have learning disabilities similar to May B. will identify with her and learn that there is a way to have hope of overcoming it.
While this free-verse chapter book may be a bit more difficult for younger readers to understand, it’s perfect for teens or pre-teens or even younger if you think you’ve got an extraordinarily smart child on your hands (and don’t we all?
I was sure that my youngest was going to win the Nobel Prize but he became an actor instead…what are you gonna do?). Rose really hit a home run with this chapter book and it’s something you’ll want to have around, especially if you were a Laura Ingalls Wilder fan yourself.
Author Caroline Starr Rose