Saturday, January 7, 2012

Kid Konnection: May B and Introducing the Class of 2K12

Every Saturday, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. This week, I'm going to share with a wonderful middle grade book that I have been dying to read for some months now.

Summary: I've known it since last night:
It's been too long to expect them to return.
Something's happened.

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. -- Schwartz & Wade

I have been reading Caroline Starr Rose's blog for some time now, and I definitely consider her a "cyber friend." It has been interesting to follow the ups and downs of her journey to become a published author. Despite the setbacks (and some pretty major ones), her debut novel MAY B will be published within the next few days. I am extremely excited for Ms. Rose because I know how much this novel means to her. But I am also very happy for readers because MAY B is an excellent novel. I absolutely, positively loved it!

I'm certainly not alone in my praise of MAY B. It has already received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews. In addition, it has been named an Amazon's Best Book of the Month for Kids: January 2012 and a Junior Library Guild selection. I'm telling you, this book is the real deal!

MAY B tells the story of May, a young girl who is sent to live and work with a neighbor couple to help out her struggling family. She's only supposed to be there for a few months, but May is naturally distraught about leaving her family and her school. When the owners of the house unexpectedly leave and don't return, May is left to fend for herself. That means she is living in a sod house which can barely weather the elements and has a limited food supply. May is struggling to just stay alive when her unfortunate memories of school begin to enter her thoughts. Things don't look good for May, but she proves that she is one incredibly strong girl.

There are so many incredible things about this novel that I'm having a hard time articulating them. So instead of just rambling on and on about how great MAY B is, I'm going to focus on a few of the things that really stood out to me. First and foremost, is the character of May. She's a wonderful little girl who shows so much strength and resilience that it's sometimes hard to believe. I loved how real May seemed; and it wasn't until the end of the novel, when May tries to deal with her learning disability that I realized how much of a hero she really could be to young readers.

Another wonderful thing about this novel was the setting. The story takes place in Kansas and reminded me so much of my childhood favorite series -- the Little House books. (I just happen to know that the author was also a big fan of the books!) I loved how Ms. Rose brought the setting to life with her vivid descriptions of life during that time. From the details about the house, to the types of food, to the weather, I thought that this novel did a wonderful job of bringing rural Kansas to life. There is no doubt that fans of the Little House books will absolutely treasure this story.

And lastly, Ms. Rose's writing is exquisite. She not only tells an intriguing story with a wonderful main character, but she does so in a way that keeps the reader turning the pages. I read MAY B in one sitting and I honestly couldn't have put the book down even if I had wanted to. But this is what is even more amazing about the writing in MAY B -- the entire novel is written verse! Each page of this novel is filled with so much emotion, and at the same time, the writing is just beautiful. It is truly a treat to read.

After I finished MAY B, I wanted to share it with everyone I know. And that's why I think MAY B is the perfect discussion book -- either for book clubs or classrooms. There is an excellent study guide available which delves into many of the themes of the novel. There are also loads of ideas for further classroom study including vocabulary, writing activities, historical details, and discussion questions.

I highly recommend MAY B to middle grade readers, but also to adults. It's a beautiful story that is guaranteed to touch your heart!

Thanks to the publisher and author for sending me a review copy of this book.

And now for a new kids lit feature on Booking Mama:

Throughout 2012, I will be featuring many of the authors from the Class of 2K12. For those of you who aren't familiar with the Class of 2K12, it's a group of middle grade and young adult authors who have books being released some time during 2012. You can learn more about the authors and their books here. (And while you are visiting the blog, make sure you sign up for their mailing list. You are going to want to stay informed because there will be many opportunities to win some fantastic prize packs!)

You might notice that I used the word interview in the previous sentence, and that's because I didn't really interview the authors. Rather, I asked each author to do one simple thing:

Describe your book in 200 characters or less.

I first posed this question to Caroline Starr Rose author of MAY B; and here's what she had to say:

Abandoned and alone, May must fight to survive a harsh winter and even harsher school memories as she comes to terms with who she truly is.

I think these 26 words sum of MAY B perfectly, and I hope that between my review and Ms. Rose's teaser that you'll consider reading this novel.

I am very excited about featuring some new middle grade and young adult authors over the next year, and I hope you feel the same way. I love reading the author teasers and I have a feeling that I'll be adding quite a few new books to my reading wish-list.

Caroline Starr Rose spent her childhood in the deserts of Saudi Arabia and New Mexico, camping at the Red Sea in one and eating red chile in the other. As a girl she danced ballet, raced through books by Laura Ingalls, and put on magic shows in a homemade cape. She graduated from the University of New Mexico and went on to teach both social studies and English in New Mexico, Florida, Virginia, and Louisiana. In her classroom, she worked to instill in her students a passion for books, the freedom to experiment with words, and a curiosity about the past. Visit her at Or discover her on Facebook, Goodreads or her blog.

If you'd like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children's books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, please leave a comment as well as a link below with your name/blog name and the title of the book! Feel free to grab the little button too!


Beth F said...

I love the sound of May B and I'll have to add it my list -- strong character, midwest setting, great writing, how I can go wrong?

I'm such a fan of middle grade books, I'll have to pay attention to the Class of 2K12 -- what a great new feature!

bermudaonion said...

You got me started on novels in verse this year and I've come to adore them. This one sounds exquisite! Wonderful review!!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I love the Class of 2K12 feature too!

Laura at Library of Clean Reads said...

I have to get this book for my daughter. It's the kind of book we like to read. Thanks so much for highlighting it.

Caroline Starr Rose said...

Thank you, Julie, for this lovely review! I'm so glad you're hosting the Class of 2k12 throughout the year.

Unknown said...

Wow, 2012 snuck up on me, I haven't even taken a peek at the Class of 2k12 yet! Thank you for the link, the review, and the love of all things kidlit!!