May B.

Written by Caroline Rose Starr
Review by Sue Asher

Twelve-year-old Mavis Elizabeth Betterly (May B.) is a Kansas prairie pioneer girl, whose parents send her to a neighboring homestead to help out – “Just until Christmas,” her father promises. Mr. Oblinger’s new bride needs a housekeeper, and May’s parents need the extra money. Feeling frightened and abandoned, devastated to have to leave school before term ends, May notes that she is helping everyone but herself. She wants to become a teacher, but is already behind in her lessons. Although she works hard for the Oblingers, nothing she does seems to help. Mrs. Oblinger is homesick and miserable and finds fault constantly. Just when May thinks things could be no worse, she finds herself deserted on the homestead, miles from home. No one knows she is alone. She must fend for herself until Christmas.

May B. is a verse novel that grabs you at once with its lovely language and descriptive prairie images. It is more introspective than action-oriented. May reflects heavily upon her school days and reading difficulties. She ponders what her family is doing without her. There is less of the nitty-gritty daily struggle of a child eking out an existence alone in a sod house for four to five months than I might have wanted to see, but the verse form is well suited to introspection. May’s story reads quickly and is sweetly, emotionally tension-filled. It’s a wonderful book for the middle-grade audience.