May B. by Caroline Starr Rose
May B is eleven and living in a sod shanty with her family in Kansas. She's never been able to learn to read fluently despite all her efforts. Desperate for money, her parents allow her to work for a "neighbor" twenty miles away, serving a new and unhappy bride in the loneliness of the prairie. After the bride tries to leave and her husband doesn't return from following her, May is left alone. Her struggles with reading, loneliness, hunger, and numbing cold intertwine.
Written in verse, the poetry of the solitude and sweep of the prairie world is haunting. Though May eventually finds the courage and strength to escape her predicament, this book is more stark and harsh than many pioneer books. I had considered reading it aloud next year during our Kansas study, but I think instead I will ask First Daughter (who will be 9 before the end of the year) to read it independently.