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May B. by Caroline Starr Rose

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May B.
Caroline Starr Rose
Schwartz & Wade
Date:  January 12, 2012
240 pages
ISBN-10: 158246393X
ISBN-13: 978-1582463933
Lexile : 680L

Book Overview:

May B., by Caroline Rose Starr, is an inspiring story about 12-year-old Mavis Elizabeth Betts, a girl with dyslexia who dreams of being a teacher someday. Written entirely in verse, the 240-page book is a quick and engrossing read. “I catch what’s not said:/ it’s foolishness to keep /pretending. / What sort of teacher can’t /read out lessons? / Maybe May B. can / Maybe May B. can’t

May B.’s life-altering experience begins when she is volunteered by her parents to help out a neighbor because his new wife needs help adjusting to life on a Kansas prairie farm. The couple live fifteen miles from the Betts’ homestead. Besides, May will be home by Christmas her father assures her. Things go awry, and May is stranded, alone, in a fight for her life against the harsh Kansas winter. The story is a testament to May’s inner strength and bravery.

Positive Content:

May B. is a first-person account from May’s point of view. The author manages to paint a realistic picture of life for the early settlers in Kansas: the one-room schoolhouse, dug-out cabins, scarcity of food and resources, harsh weather, and long distances. Hard choices abound for May B. and her family, and she must grow up quickly.

Ms. Rose’s characterization, imagery, and pacing are first rate. She does what all novelists strive to achieve in far fewer words, and I salute her skill. This book is appropriate for all ages, particularly middle grades and up. Readers younger than nine may need help following the story without the usual cues provided by prose.

Content to Consider: (Spoilers)

Violence: NONE

Crude, Vulgar, or Profane Language: NONE

Sexual Content: NONE

Drug/Alcohol: NONE

Negative Content:

  • May’s current teacher neither understands nor sympathizes with May’s learning problem caused by her dyslexia. May has fond memories of her first teacher who worked hard to help her progress.
  • The children at her school, all but her brother, underestimate May’s intelligence based on her poor academic performance. Any child with learning differences will identify with the way this affects her self-esteem.
  • Her peers ridicule and harass May because of her disability.
  • Even her parents seem to underestimate their daughter, although their love for her is clear.
  • The neighbor’s inept wife is rude to May and unappreciative of her hard work.
  • The neighbor and his wife perish off-screen. May does not know they have died until the end of the story.

Spiritual Content:

May mentions wearing shoes to church. She also mentions her brother’s church-going shirt. When she is most alone, May prays for something to “…break the constant pound of quiet.”

My Personal Opinions:

I have read this book through twice and thoroughly enjoyed it both times.  For those who love Laura Ingalls Wilder or even Anne of Green Gables, this book is a natural choice. The female protagonist has a strong spirit and will to survive.

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About the Author

Kathrese McKee started life as a Systems Engineer at EDS, spent time in real estate, taught middle grade Reading and ESL in Texas, and settled down to blog and write speculative fiction for Young Adults.

As a teacher, she fell in love with books written for Teens and Young Adults. Her favorite books are “coming of age” stories about young people on the difficult road of self-discovery.

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