"The best children's stories are wisdom dipped in art and words." -Peter Reynolds

Friday, April 11, 2014

Missing May

Missing May by Cynthia Rylant was published in 1992 by Orchard Books. It is the story of a young, 12 year old girl named Summer who is still grieving the death of her Aunt May, alongside her Uncle Ob. Summer had gone to live with May and Ob in West Virginia when she was six years old after her own parents died. All three of them were happy and finally a family for a few years before Aunt May passed away.

"We wanted a family so bad, all of us. And we just grabbed onto each another and made us one. Simple as that," (Rylant 87). 

We only get to know May through the flashbacks and memories of Summer and Uncle Ob. They are struggling immensely to get their lives back together, though it seems impossible. On top of it all, Summer is so worried about her Uncle Ob that she cannot fully grieve herself. Just when all hope seems lost, their young friend named Cletus comes up with a plan for a special trip that may just heal them all. Or, at least begin the healing process in a healthy way.

I am forever a fan of Rylant's eloquent way with words. Her descriptive language is as beautiful and relatable as ever. "The capital building sprawled gray concrete like a regal queen spreading out her petticoats, and its giant dome glittered pure gold in the morning sun. I felt in me an embarrassing sense of pride that she was ours," (70). Additionally, her ability to dig deep into your heart is unmatched. "I had no reason to fear bats, and as I grew and discovered how people are deathly afraid of them, it made me wonder about fear. Whether it all just starts with the people who raise us," (57-58).  Was Summer really talking about the fear of bats here or rather the fear of death? Did May and Ob fear death and therefore Summer has been affected? Why does Summer feel so much fear for what will happen to Ob? The book leads to many deep conversations that can be experienced by upper elementary students and young adults. 

Missing May would be an excellent uplifting choice for any upper elementary and beyond child. Rylant's ability to console a reader through the tough topic of death is calming.The book's theme is sad and about death but the underlying message is one of hope and positivity. Rylant effectively teaches the lesson that it is good to grieve, it is normal, and it will hurt. 

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