Read May B. Online

Authors: Caroline Rose

May B.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Text copyright © 2012 by Caroline Starr Rose
Jacket art copyright © 2012 by Christopher Silas Neal

All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Schwartz & Wade Books, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

Schwartz & Wade Books and the colophon are trademarks of Random House, Inc.

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Rose, Caroline Starr.
May B. : a novel-in-verse / by Caroline Starr Rose.—1st ed.
p. cm.
Summary: When a failed wheat crop nearly bankrupts the Betterly family, Pa pulls twelve-year-old May from school and hires her out to a couple new to the Kansas frontier.
eISBN: 978-1-58246-437-4
[1. Novels in verse. 2. Frontier and pioneer life—Kansas—Fiction.
3. Kansas—History—19th century—Fiction.] I. Title.
PZ7.5.R67May 2011

Random House Children’s Books supports the First Amendment and celebrates the right to read.


In loving memory of my grandmother,
Gene Starr Craig

For my students in New Mexico, Florida, Virginia, and
Louisiana: There are a few of you whose needs I didn’t
fully understand and others I could have done better by.
This story is for you.

Part One

      I won’t go.

      “It’s for the best,” Ma says,

      yanking to braid my hair,

      trying to make something of what’s left.

      Ma and Pa want me to leave

      and live with strangers.

      I won’t go.


      “It’s for the best,

      you packing up and moving

      to the Oblingers’ soddy.”

      Ma’s brush tugs.

      My eyes sting.

      For the best,

      like when the Wright baby died,

      not three weeks old—

      one less child to clothe.

      After all,

      I cook some,

      collect fuel,


      tote water,



      pretty braid or not.

      Why not Hiram? I think,

      but I already know:

      boys are necessary.

      “You’ll bring in some extra money,” Ma says.

“We’ll get you home by Christmas.”

      A wisp of hair escapes her grasp,

      encircling my cheek.

      For the best,

      one less child to clothe.


      Before Ma ties my ribbon,

      I push outside and run.

      My feet pound out

      I won’t go

      I won’t go

      I won’t go.

      My braid spills loose.

      The short pieces hang about one ear.


      the hunk of hair he cut

      because I dared him to.

      He got his lashing

      like we knew he would,

      his smile full of pride.

      Why didn’t he cut it all?

      Then maybe,

      like Samson in the Bible,

      I’d be useless too.


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