May B. by Caroline Starr Rose

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Our Score

May B., by Caroline Rose Starr, is an inspiring Middle Grade story about twelve-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.

Pros:

  • 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.

Cons:

  • 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.

My Personal Opinion:

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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Kathrese McKee
Kathrese McKee writes YA epic adventure fantasy for anyone who enjoys pirates and princesses combined with life’s difficult questions. She is an author, speaker, teacher, and editor. Visit her at www.kathresemckee.com.

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