Children’s Literature Top Picks of 2011 & 2012 By Patricia Austin, University of New Orleans
May B. by Caroline Starr Rose. New York: Schwartz & Wade, 2012. 231pp. Gr. 3-7 The title alone May B (short for the protagonist’s name Mavis Elizabeth Betterly) sets up an intriguing metaphoric premise. What is it that may be possible for twelve-year old May B, a poor girl from the Kansas prairie in the 1870s? She shares her dream of becoming a teacher but she struggles so in reading that people think she’s slow-witted. Her family hires her to a farm some fifteen miles away–to make money and help out. May suffers an uneasy relationship with the lady of the soddy, who is so sad, missing home, that she leaves. When her husband searches for her and doesn’t return, May is left to fend for herself facing uncertainly, fears (some imagined but most real) as she braves many hardships. The novel has perfect pacing with tension that will have readers turning the pages, yet its beauty is in the lyrical language. Readers who have felt “my best isn’t always good enough,” will find a special kinship with the determined protagonist.* They will also appreciate the short verses. Check out the blog of former teacher, Caroline Starr Rose where she offers info on making sod houses and provides teaching materials for her book.