Caroline Starr Rose is a fan of the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and her debut middle grades book, May B, is Rose's tribute to the Kansas prairie of Wilder's youth. Rose's story, written in verse, describes the vast, desolate prairie land of western Kansas and tells the story of one young girl's harrowing experience as a hired girl in the late 1870s.
Mavis Elizabeth Betterly, May B, lives with her ma, pa, and brother, Hiram, in a soddy ( a house made of sod) in the short grasslands miles outside the nearest town. The family is poor, and Ma and Pa decide to send May to a neighbor's soddy to work and help the new bride adjust and take care of the house. May doesn't want to go. The neighbors live fifteen miles away, and May will have to miss school for months. She's angry at her Pa for making her go and feels expendable and unwanted.
May's pa drives her in their wagon to the neighbor's home in the middle of summer and promises to pick her up before Christmas. When May arrives, it is obvious to her that the new bride is miserable with life on the prairie. May does everything, and tries her best to be useful, but it's of no help to the miserable young woman May has been sent to work for. The young bride runs off to live with her family in Ohio, and her husband sets off to find her. They never return.
May is alone. She has no way to contact her family or any neighbors. She doesn't know where she is, and on the plains of Kansas she has no real way to orient herself to her surroundings. May decides her best course of action is to stay put until her father's promised return in December. A blizzard traps May inside the soddy, wolves prowl outside her dirt shelter, and she's quickly running out of food. Lonely, scared, and hungry, May digs her way out of the icy snowpack and starts the dangerous trip home. Along the way, May is rescued by a neighbor who has come searching for her after hearing that the couple she was working for have disappeared.
Caroline Starr Rose weaves a heart-wrenching subplot into the fabric of May B. May is dyslexic. She is smart, loves school, and works twice as hard as the other students, but May stumbles over words. She dreams of being a teacher, but no one, including May, has confidence in her ability to pass the teaching exam. Dyslexia is unheard of in the late 19th century. Kids who struggled with reading were considered dumb or slow. May's time alone gives her insight into her difficulties with reading. She discovers techniques to help her read aloud and decides she won't give up on becoming teacher.
May B is a lovely story and a great elementary introduction to verse.
Blog you later!