Tuesday, 19 July 2016

May B. A Novel by Caroline Starr Rose

May B. A Novel
By Caroline Starr Rose
Schwartz & Wade
ISBN 9781582464121

I should keep a better record of where I read about books, which I then request from the library, but have lost track of why by the time the actual book arrives. This was a little gem. A verse novel - which is becoming one of my favourite forms. When I recommend them at school I try not to say the word 'poetry' too loudly as so many readers have been put off poetry (a sadness in itself), but emphasise the shortness of the sentences, and say that 'like good poetry, ever word counts, so you get maximum story without excessive words'. Great for reluctant or struggling readers to get maximum story for their reading buck.

Set in the early settler days in Kansas, May (12) is told that she won't be allowed to go back to school, but has to go and work for another farmer and his wife 15 long miles away 'just until Christmas' says her Pa. She has a learning disability but longs to learn and to make the words stay still so she can read, taking along her slate and reader, determined to keep trying. The farmer is newly married and his wife miserable in her new situation. They live in a sod house - a soddy - which I hadn't heard of before. Built from blocks of peat, leaky, dark and damp. Finally the wife can't stand it any longer and runs away, with her husband later setting off to find her, leaving May alone with not much food and no idea how to get home. She is resourceful and determined, and finds way to feed herself and keep herself warm when the house is buried in snow. The writing is spare and precise, nothing wasted, just as May must waste nothing if she is to survive.  This is not just a marvellous story of survival, but a trip back in time with the many details of how life was lived way back when. 9+.

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