Reviews for May B.

Booklist Reviews 2012 January #1
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. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2012 Fall
In this spare survival story in verse set on the homesteaded Kansas prairie, May finds herself snowed in, alone, and unable to send for help. Dwindling supplies, evidence of wolves, and a blizzard--along with the psychological challenges of claustrophobia and despair--make up the tense plot. Author Rose uses a close-up lens and a fine sense of rhythm to draw us into a stark world.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2012 #1
The verse novel form is particularly well suited to this spare survival story set on the homesteaded Kansas prairie. In late August, young May's parents send her off to work for a newly married couple on their isolated farm fifteen miles away, promising she'll be back by Christmas. But when the homesick Mrs. Oblinger runs away and her husband sets off to retrieve her and doesn't return, May is stranded alone in their sod hut, snowed in, unable to get home, unable to send for help. Dwindling supplies of food and fuel, evidence of wolves, and a blizzard are the external threats that make up the tense plot, but equally dangerous are the psychological challenges of claustrophobia and despair. Only when May chooses to live fully in the present can she gather her resources for a life-saving plan. A backstory involving May's dyslexia parallels the themes of abandonment and potent effects of small, rare kindnesses. Author Rose uses a close-up lens and a fine sense of rhythm to draw us into her stark world, Little House on the Prairie without the coziness. "It's the noise that wakes me / in the darkness close as a shroud. / Wind whips around the soddy; / I imagine I hear the walls groan." sarah ellis

Kirkus Reviews 2011 October #2
As unforgiving as the western Kansas prairies, this extraordinary verse novel--Rose's debut--paints a gritty picture of late-19th-century frontier life from the perspective of a 12-year-old dyslexic girl named Mavis Elizabeth Betterly… May B. for short. Between May and her brother Hiram, she's the dispensable one: "Why not Hiram? I think, / but I already know: / boys are necessary." Ma and Pa, hurting for money, hire out their daughter to the Oblingers, a newlywed couple who've just homesteaded 15 miles west--just until Christmas, Pa promises. May is bitter: "I'm helping everyone / except myself." She has trouble enough at school with her cumbersome reading without missing months… and how can she live in such close quarters with strangers? A misshapen sod house, Mr. Oblinger and his wife, a miserable teenager in a flaming red dress, greet her as "Pa tucks money / inside his shirt pocket." This sad-enough tale crescendos to a hair-raising survival story when May is inexplicably abandoned and left in complete isolation to starve… just until Christmas? Snowed in and way past the last apple, May thinks, "It is hard to tell what is sun, / what is candle, / what is pure hope." 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. (Historical fiction. 9-14) Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2011 December #1

Set on the Kansas prairie in the 19th century, this debut novel in verse presents a harrowing portrait of pioneer life through the perspective of 12-year-old Mavis Elizabeth Betterly, called May B. After a disappointing harvest, May's family sends her 15 miles away to help a farmer and his new bride ("She's fancy and tall,/ but I've caught it right away--/ she's hardly older than I"). May bravely faces the loss of family and the opportunity to attend school, until a homesick Mrs. Oblinger runs off for Ohio and Mr. Oblinger follows, leaving May completely alone. The spare free-verse poems effectively sketch this quietly courageous heroine, the allure and dangers of the open prairie, and the claustrophobic sod house setting. Tension mounts as the weather worsens and supplies dwindle. May's struggle with reading is particularly affecting, and readers will recognize her unnamed and poorly understood difficulty as dyslexia. Writing with compassion and a wealth of evocative details, Rose offers a memorable heroine and a testament to the will to survive. Ages 8-12. Agent: Martha Kaplan Agency. (Jan.)

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