Monday, March 26, 2018

Review: Missing May by Cynthia Rylant


Missing May by Cynthia Rylant


Pages: 89
Genre: Middlegrade Contemporary
Publisher: Yearling Newbery
Publication Date: 1992
Since Summer was six years old, she lived with dear Aunt May and Uncle Ob. Now, six years later, Aunt May has died. Summer, who misses May with all her might, is afraid something will happen to Ob. Most days Ob seems like he doesn't want to go on. But then Ob feels May's spirit around him and he wants to contact her. Cletus Underwood, a strange boy from school, reads about someone who could help him do that. Summer wants to hear from May too. 

Ob and Summer don't know what to expect when they set off on their search for some sign from May. They only know they need something to ease their sorrow and give them strength to go on living—always knowing they will never stop missing May.
My mission to read all the Newbery winners continues with Missing May, the winner from 1993. This book is tiny—only 89 pages—but it has a lot of depth. The Newbery winners I’ve read so far have been hit or miss (mostly miss) with me. Sometimes, I have no idea what the award committee is thinking. Luckily, I didn’t have that problem with Missing May. This little book deserves its Newbery.


When Summer’s Aunt May dies suddenly, her Uncle Ob changes. He no longer wants to build whirligigs, or work in the garden, or leave the house. Some days, he won’t even get out of bed. Summer doesn’t know what to do. Then, her neighbor, Cletus, suggests that Ob should visit a psychic medium and try to contact May. At first, Summer is skeptical. She doesn’t believe in psychics. But, she’ll try anything to help Ob.


“What is it that makes a person want to stay here on this earth anyway, and go on suffering the most awful pain just for the sake of getting to stay? I used to think it was because people fear death. But now I think it is because people can't bear saying goodbye.” – Missing May



This book is quirky enough to be entertaining and real enough to be meaningful. It talks about depression in a way that’s realistic but not too overwhelming for kids. Summer is confused by Ob’s drastic change in personality. She’s upset that her love isn’t enough to make him better. Eventually, she learns that Ob will always miss May, and he needs time to get better on his own. She can’t cure him by herself.

The story is set in a small town in West Virginia. Even though the book is tiny, the reader gets a good sense of the culture of Appalachia. The characters don’t have much money, and they’re used to being self-sufficient. Summer doesn’t have many people she can rely on to help her with Ob. She starts the story by trying to avoid her weird neighbor, Cletus, but by the end of the book, she learns that Cletus is exactly the friend she needs.


“We wanted a family so bad, all of us. And we just grabbed each another and made us one. Simple as that.” – Missing May



I actually think Missing May could have been longer. Ob snaps out of his depression quite suddenly at the end. That works well for the plot, but I don’t know how realistic it is.

If the book was longer, the reader could have learned more about Summer and Cletus. I feel like the reader knows more about the adult characters than the child characters. For a kids’ book, that’s weird. It might be a turn-off for some young readers.

Still, this is one of the better Newbery books I’ve read. Some of them are very disappointing.



TL;DR: The book could have benefited from being longer, but I still think it’s a good resource for kids whose caregivers are dealing with grief or depression.











16 comments:

  1. That sounds sad, but interesting. Have a nice week!

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  2. I do think it's great when books tackle tougher topics like depression, because they need to know?! Life is so much less confusing and scary when you get what's going on. Buuut I never like stories that end with snapping-out-of-the-depression because it's usually pretty unrealistic. :( But still!! I'm glad you enjoyed this one and it lived up to its Newberry!

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    1. Yeah, the end is a let-down. The rest is so good, though!

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  3. This sounds like a well done story. My daughter read a bunch of award winning books as part of a challenge in middle school. Every years she was happy when she found the books that she actually liked. I am glad this one worked for you.

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    1. I’m also excited when I find Newbery winners that I actually like. There are so many boring and forgettable ones.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  4. I love that you're working your way through the Newbery Award winners. I started to at one point, but then got distracted by all the new releases (and other awards) over the past couple years. I would like to pick that goal back up, though. Missing May sounds like an important read, even if sad. And WOW at it only being 89 pages. I hope you have a wonderful week of reading!

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    1. I’m trying really hard to get through a big chunk of the winners this year. There are so many of them! I’m glad most of them are short.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  5. That's some goal to read all of the Newbery winners. I've taught with Walk Two Moons and Chasing Redbird probably with my GATE reading groups. WTM is a Newbery medal winner but while Chasing Redbird isn't, both are about a young girl who has to deal with death in some way.

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    1. Walk Two Moons was one of my favorite books as a kid. I haven’t read Chasing Redbird. I’ll have to look it up.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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    1. Yep. I was (mostly) impressed by this one. It’s unusual.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  7. When I Was Young in the Mountains, also by the author, is one of my personal favorites because I'm from WV and so much of the story hits home with me. I will have to look this one up sometime. Perhaps it's in my school's library.

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    1. This is the first Cynthia Rylant book I’ve read. When I finish all the Newbery winners, I’ll have to look up her other books.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  8. For such a short book is sure sounds like such an emotional read but so good too.

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  9. I've really liked the Cynthia Rylant I've read. I have this in my classroom, but nobody ever picks it up, probably because of the dated cover. The length is perfect for my students, so maybe I should read it so I can "sell" it better.

    What is the metal implement in the photo?

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