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May B. Hardcover – January 10, 2012

62 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Furious that Ma and Pa have sent her out to work for the money they need, May Betts, 11, finds herself in a small, sod homestead on the western Kansas prairie in the late 1870s, 15 miles away from home, caring for a new, unsettled young bride, who is just a few years older than May. When the bride takes off, her husband leaves to find her, and May is all alone—frightened, furious, abandoned. Can she survive the five months until her parents come to collect her at Christmas? Told in very short lines, the spare free verse in spacious type is a fast read, poetic and immediate. The daily physical details are the heart of the survival story of finding food and keeping warm and safe as the snow comes, all against the dramatic backdrop of the prairie. The vast landscape is home to May, but to the new bride, the quiet is “thunderous as a storm, the way / it hounds you / inside / outside / nighttime / day.” Of course, Little House fans will grab this. Grades 3-7. --Hazel Rochman


Heroes come in all sizes; my newest hero is a pint-sized girl named May B. Caroline Starr Rose tells May's story in simple, moving verse that captures the joy of family, the gloomy isolation of a dirt soddy, and the determination of one scared but indomitable young person. May B. is a girl you'll be proud to know.  
- Karen Cushman, Newbery winner

  • American Library Association Notable Book 2013
  • American Booksellers Association 2012 Spring New Voices title
  • Amazon's Best Books of the Month for Kids: January 2012 selection
  • Junior Library Guild selection 
  • Kids' Indie Next List: Spring 2012 
  • Publisher's Weekly Spring 2012 Flying Start
  • 2012 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award Winner, juvenile division

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."

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 9 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 680L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Schwartz & Wade (January 10, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 158246393X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582463933
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #608,790 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About 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, composed poetry on an ancient typewriter, and put on magic shows in a homemade cape. She's taught 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, an enthusiasm to experiment with words, and a curiosity about the past.

Caroline lives in New Mexico with her husband and two sons.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Maggie Knapp on January 11, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Beautifully written novel in verse about a young woman living in Kansas as the area was being settled. She works hard when she is able to attend school, and is disappointed to leave her books behind when she must move in with another family to help out. The adventure becomes very exciting, and May finds her resources tested as winter approaches. Great for fans of Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Kirby Larson's HATTIE BIG SKY. The book is suitable for 'tween readers, but the writing has subtlety and depth that teens (such as readers of Jame Richards' THREE RIVERS RISING) will appreciate. A fast read with evocative language and a terrific story.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By springfield, va on January 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I just finished May B and loved it. The writing is vivid and beautiful. It captures the severe and sometimes terrible beauty of the Kansas prairies but also beautifully portrays a girl struggling to embrace who she is. My ten year old daughter is now reading it and loving it, too. She is intrigued by the verse in which it is written, especially since her class is currently studying poetry. I'll be buying more copies for gifts!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By M. Tanenbaum VINE VOICE on March 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Author Caroline Starr Rose describes her striking debut novel in verse for middle grade readers as "part Hatchet, part Little House on the Prairie, part Out of the Dust. It's a story of courage and hope."

Set on the Kansas frontier, this novel tells the story of May, who's just twelve years old when her pa pulls her out of school and hires her out to a couple who've recently moved out to the endless Kansas prairies. "I won't go," is the book's poignant first line, but of course she has no real choice, in the way of all children in that era. She'll bring in some extra money for her family, and it will just be until Christmas, her ma promises her.

May hopes to be a schoolteacher one day, a surprising goal given that she has trouble learning at school. "What sort of teacher can't read out lessons?" she wonders. Yet she perseveres, bringing a book and her slate with her. When the couple she's sent to live with leave her alone in their sod house, at first she's sure they'll be returning. But when the days pass, she realizes she's been left to fend for herself, miles from any other settlers and with no help in sight. With the harsh Kansas winter coming, she must find food and fuel if she's to survive, summoning every bit of her courage and knowledge to make it through alive.

I particularly enjoyed the author's use of free verse in this short novel, which is accessible to even reluctant readers. The author's poetry is particularly evocative in describing the vastness of the Kansas prairies: "grass/always grass,/in different shades and textures/like the braids in a rag rug.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Tandy Wood on January 23, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
May B was an absolute delight!! I picked it up to read the first few pages and literally did not put it down again until I was finished. I loved the sparse, eloquent, and perfectly-pitched verse as well as the precisely defined characters. And, of course, I ached for, laughed with, and cheered for May B as she endured the challenges of surviving in the harshness of a prairie Kansas winter.

Although this is a middle-grade young adult novel, I have been enthusiastically recommending it to any age reader friends who appreciate a good story and great writing. My pre-teen grandchildren will also be the recipients of their own copies of this extraordinary first novel. Hopefully, there will be more stories ahead from this fine writer.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By ReadingCorner on January 17, 2012
Format: Hardcover
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.
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