Monday, June 9, 2014

MMGM: May B


I suppose I’m the last person in the world to read this wonderful book. Although I heard good things about it and heard it compared to Little House, I stayed away. I think it’s because it was a novel-in-verse.

I can’t explain why I’ve been afraid to pick up a novel-in-verse. Maybe it’s because I didn’t like the only one I’ve read so far.

But I'm so glad I got past my prejudice and picked up May B.  I am now on the look out for more novels-in-verse like it.



Synopsis:

 May is helping out on a neighbor's Kansas prairie homestead—just until Christmas, says Pa. She wants to contribute, but it's hard to be separated from her family by 15 long, unfamiliar miles. Then the unthinkable happens: May is abandoned. Trapped in a tiny snow-covered sod house, isolated from family and neighbors, May must prepare for the oncoming winter. While fighting to survive, May's memories of her struggles with reading at school come back to haunt her. But she's determined to find her way home again. Caroline Starr Rose's fast-paced novel, written in beautiful and riveting verse, gives readers a strong new heroine to love.

 What I loved:

  1. Survival! I am a sucker for survival stories, which is probably why I loved Little House series so much as a kid. Starr gets her details right and pulls us into life on the prairie. I felt for May B. and her desperation to survive.
  2. Dyslexia As Starr says in her author’s notes, she was interested in exploring how a person with learning challenges would manage in pioneer times. This was one of the most fascinating parts of the book for me. I've taught many students with dyslexia, and I am always pleased to see books which feature characters like this. I think many kids can relate to May's struggles in this area.
  3. Character’s wants There were so many things that made May B compelling, but in addition to the dyslexia,it was her (a seemingly) impossible goal of being a teacher. Not only did she have to fight her own obstacles in learning to read, but others' expectations as well. This is a character-driven novel with almost only one character--an amazing feat in itself.
  4. The poems Despite my reticence to read a novel-in-verse, this is another one where I can’t imagine it any other way. It would’ve been difficult to read about May's long stretch of solitude in prose. Starr made an excellent choice here.

Despite these highlights, I don’t feel like my words do this book justice. This is one of those books that I’ll be thinking on for a long time, a classic, so full of heart.


Have you read any great novels-in-verse?





To check out more Marvelous Middle Grade suggestions, check out Shannon Messenger's blog.

20 comments:

  1. I really loved this one. It's one of those books where you think back to it long after you've finished reading.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I LOVED May B, but like you, was a little uncertain at first to read it and for the same reason! Have you heard Caroline discuss why she chose this structure? My writing club kids and I skyped with her a few months ago, and (paraphrasing from memory) she said on researching, she found the pioneer women wrote in a rhythm of snips and snatches a bit like this. Isn't that so cool?

    --Suzanne
    www.suzannewarr.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's really interesting, Suzanne! Thanks for sharing that. I love hearing about author's techniques and research.

      Delete
  3. I have been on the reluctant bandwagon for some time. Your thoughts along with the comments above convinced me to make the jump. Thanks for the push.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's great, Greg! I hope you'll be pleasantly surprised as I was.

      Delete
  4. I loved this one. The sparse-but-perfect word choice is really something to behold.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I love her beautiful sparse style.

      Delete
  5. I have read five novels in verse, and while this was not my favorite (of the five) I think it was well written and the verse format worked great for a book with so few characters. My friend A.L. Sonnichsen has RED BUTTERFLY coming out in February 2015 which I loved and I also really liked Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the recs, Julie! I just saw something about the RED BUTTERFLY--it really sounds intriguing. I was planning on picking up OUT OF THE DUST soon, since my son will be reading it next year.

      Delete
  6. Oh yes, I read and loved this book so much! I used to feel the same way; always hesitant to pick up a novel in verse. When I got over that prejudice by reading MAY B. I then read OUT OF THE DUST, which I also liked, though it's more of a downer. You could try Eileen Spinelli. She writes MG verse novels that are quiet and lovely.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I will check out Spinelli too. I saw a book by her highlighted recently that sounded really intriguing. Thanks for the heads up about OUT OF THE DUST being a little bit of a downer.

      Delete
    2. Yes, Out of the Dust is a little bit of a sad situation with no real way of winning... but the main reason I said I liked it is b/c it had a really good flow to the verse style of writing. I had read a couple others with a "Meh" reaction to the style, and then with this one I was like "Oh, I see." I even started writing my own verse project after reading it! :-)

      Delete
    3. That's so cool that you were inspired to write your own after OUT OF THE DUST. I'm really going to have to read that one, especially after you all have said so much about it. Besides, I'm a sucker for beautiful language.

      Delete
  7. I loved this book. I was so in awe of how a novel in verse could paint a historical setting/atmosphere in so few words! I'm glad you finally gave it a shot. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I was impressed by that as well. Thanks for stopping by, Anna!

      Delete
  8. Truth: Unless you're talking about The Odyssey (or it's like) or Shakespeare, no, I haven't read a novel in verse. I've heard about the rising trend, and I think it would be an epic challenge, but I'm super slow at hopping in with new trends.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maybe it was the Odyssey that kept me off reading novels-in-verse. Not a good experience! :) I am also slow to jump on trends too. I probably wouldn't have read this one if I hadn't heard so many good things about it--and I was pleasantly surprised.

      Delete
  9. You're not the last person in the world, because I haven't read it, either :) And I'm with Crystal - the only stuff I've read in verse is by Shakespeare, or from Ancient Greece. I'm intrigued by your post, though!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's good to know I'm not the only one. :) It's a different kind of reading experience. It was a fast read and very emotional, which I think is fitting with the more poetry style.

      Delete