Missing May by Cynthia Rylant

Book Cover:  Missing May by Cynthia RylantI read Missing May by Cynthia Rylant as part of my life-long goal to read all of the Newbery books.  Missing May won the Newbery Medal in 1993.

Missing May is the story of Summer, who has lived with her Aunt May and Uncle Ob since she was six after she was orphaned and nobody else wanted her.  Now twelve years old, Summer and Uncle Ob must learn how to deal with the recent death of Aunt May.  Without Aunt May, Uncle Ob is rapidly going downhill and Summer must learn how to take care of them both.  But when Uncle Ob feels that May’s spirit is still all around, Cletus Underwood, a boy from school, tells them of a women who can contact the dead.  Hoping that they will be able to find peace in her death and find the will to go on, they set off together to contact May.

I absolutely loved Summer’s voice.  One of my favorite quotes from Missing May was:

May was gardening when she died.  That’s the word she always used:  gardening.  Everybody else in Fayette County would say they were going out to work in the garden, and that’s the picture you’d get in your mind – people out there laboring and sweating and grunting in the dirt.  But Aunt May gardened, and when she said it your mind would see some lovely person in a yellow-flowered hat snipping soft pink roses, little robins landing on her shoulders.

I loved that one because I absolutely LOVE to garden.  Another quote:

May was the best person I ever knew.  Even better than Ob.  She was a big barrel of nothing but love, and while Ob and me were off in our dreamy heads, May was here in this trailer seeing to it there was a good home for us when we were ready to land.  She understood people and she let them be whatever way they needed to be.  She had faith in every single person she ever met, and this never failed her, for nobody ever disappointed May.  Seems people knew she saw the very best of them and they’d turn that side to her to give her a better look.

. . . We had May to brag on us both. And we felt strong.

But we’re not strong anymore.  And I think Ob’s going to die,  truly die, if I can’t figure a way to mend his sorry broken heart.  And if Ob does go, goes off to be with May, then it’ll be just me and the whirligigs left.  And all of us still as night, praying for wings, real wings, so we can fly away.

A story of grief and healing, I highly recommend this one.

21 comments


  1. This sounds really wonderful and touching. I’ll have to read it.

    on August 11th, 2008 at 5:00 pm
  2. I need to read some more Newberys. I have the same personal goal to read all of them but I have not read any in a few months. This is one that I do look forward to reading.

    on August 11th, 2008 at 7:19 pm
  3. you actually liked the book?? hmm.. now that makes me want to reconsider my decision.. the first time i heard about “missing may” i didnt really pay much attention to it because of the whole “communicating with the dead” deal.. but if you liked the book then maybe it isnt bad!

    on August 12th, 2008 at 10:20 am
  4. You have been the review speed demon lately! I’m WAY behind you on the list of Newberry’s to read, but I like knowing what you though of them first. This are usually the ones I read with my kids and it’s good to know what the books are about first.

    on August 12th, 2008 at 11:08 am
  5. I, too, am trying to read all of the Newberry winners, though I haven’t made it too far yet. This review of Missing May has made me want to read it sooner than some of the others.

    What’s your favorite Newberry that you’ve read so far?

    on August 12th, 2008 at 1:38 pm
  6. I’ve thought about trying to read all of the Newbery books too. Maybe I’ll get around to it one of these days. This book sounds lovely!

    on August 12th, 2008 at 3:02 pm
  7. I think it’s a terrific book, though my students have not shown much interest in it.

    Nice review.

    on August 12th, 2008 at 3:18 pm
  8. Charley – It’s a fast read. Should only take an hour or so.

    Jeannette – The nice thing is that I’ve given myself no time limit. That way I don’t feel any pressure.

    Ramya – It’s less about “talking with the dead” and more about how to move on after the death of a loved one.

    Jenn M. – I know!! I read so much last month when I didn’t have a internet connection for a week that I’ve built up quite a stack. Eight more to go!

    Jessica – Hmm . . . my favorite Newbery? I just updated my list with all the ones I’ve read with links to all of my reviews here. Elijah of Buxton was awesome! As well as Hattie Big Sky and Number the Stars. Hands down, Criss Cross has been my absolute least favorite.

    on August 12th, 2008 at 3:21 pm
  9. CB James – I think that anytime a book is required reading, students don’t receive it as well. I’ve had a TON of students leave me messages on my review of The Breadwinner series by Deborah Ellis that they LOVE it. I’m really surprised with their enthusiasm.

    on August 12th, 2008 at 3:23 pm
  10. Maybe so. I think requiring a book doesn’t have much affect on how well kids enjoy it one way or another. I’ve no proof for this statement at all.

    I’ve never made Missing May a required book.

    on August 12th, 2008 at 7:03 pm
  11. Sounds like a great book. I really like your idea of reading all of the Newbery Medal winners.

    on August 12th, 2008 at 10:59 pm
  12. Wow I can’t imagine reading all of the Newberry books! Good luck :)

    on August 13th, 2008 at 1:01 am
  13. CB James – I just know whenever I had to read a book in English class during high school, I didn’t enjoy it as much. I hate nitpicking books apart and disliked the homework assignments that went along with them. Which is kind of funny because blogging about books is like self-imposed homework. I’d love to go back and reread a lot of the books I read for school.

    Jessi and Kathleen – No rush. But so far, it’s been a LOT of fun. I think I’ve read twenty so far this year. They are fun and easy.

    on August 13th, 2008 at 1:05 am
  14. I read this when I was in like 6th grade and remember not liking it at all. I might have to give it another try (especially since it’s short) to see if my opinion has changed…

    I enjoyed your review!

    on August 13th, 2008 at 8:46 am
  15. sounds cool! i so want to read it! thanks! =]

    on August 13th, 2008 at 12:17 pm
  16. helo!!! i like very much yuor book review also i had read the book and i like it very much!!!

    on August 20th, 2008 at 12:42 pm
  17. I think this book is only okay because I didn’t like a book about a person death, but I read it for my summer reading

    on September 16th, 2008 at 4:15 pm
  18. KT – I’ve found that age does bring about a change of opinion on a lot of books.

    Ginger – Come back and let me know after you do.

    Dani – You’re welcome! Thanks for stopping by.

    Maria – I liked how it was about the aftermath of somebody’s death. I’m glad you read it even though you didn’t care for it too much.

    on September 17th, 2008 at 8:12 pm
  19. i hate it

    on May 12th, 2010 at 6:12 pm
  20. adog what is your problem.i already finished reading the whole book,it’s the best book i’ve read.you must be crazy or something.

    on October 1st, 2010 at 4:42 pm
  21. I love the book. I think it is sad too but love the same things you pointed out. I think the fact that Ob and May were so full of love and showed Summer how much love can replace material things. So many people go through life wanting something that isn’t going to make them happy. Love and relationships are really the key. Thanks for your review. I stumbled onto your site because I was just looking for some new questions about this book since I teach 6th grade and want to have more relevant questions for them. :o )

    on October 1st, 2011 at 7:58 am

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