Missing May

by Cynthia Rylant

Hardcover, 1992



Local notes

Fic Ryl




New York : Orchard Books, c1992.


After the death of the beloved aunt who has raised her, twelve-year-old Summer and her uncle Ob leave their West Virginia trailer in search of the strength to go on living.

Original publication date


Physical description

89 p.; 22 cm

User reviews

LibraryThing member Whisper1
Be sure to have a box of tissues by your side if/when you read this poignantly wonderful book of loss that wounds and love that transcends the sadness of death, enabling the spirit to keep living through the pain.

Cynthia Rylant, the author of this 1993 Newbery Medal award winning book, is
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rightfully deserving of the honor.

While small in the number of pages, it is large in depth and meaning. It packs a soft wallop as each and every word is used with such powerful poetry that I marveled as I turned the pages.

Narrated by Summer, we learn of the difficult early years after her mother died and she was complacently passed along to a series of family members. "Every house I had ever lived in was so particular about its food, and especially when the food involved me. I felt like one of those little mice who has to figure out the right button to push before its food will drop down into the cup. Caged and begging. That's how I felt sometimes."

Rescued by elderly Aunt May and Uncle Ob, Summer finally finds a secure, stable home as she lives with these two wonderful people who, while lacking in financial resources, have an abundance of love.

When Aunt May dies, in deep grief, Summer's fears of abandonment and insecurity arise as she watches Uncle Ob slip into depression.

Enter anything but ordinary, highly eccentric, classmate Cletus Underwood who brings a unique joy and unconventionality to the two deeply hurting souls.

I liked everything about this book. Rich in symbolism, the words gentle power come to mind.

Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member foggidawn
Ob and May took Summer in when she was six years old, shunted from one relative to another. They didn't have much, just a trailer in rural West Virginia, but they gave her the unconditional love and acceptance she had been craving all her life. Then, when Summer was 12, May died, leaving Summer and
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Ob feeling lost and adrift. If only there were some way to talk to May just one last time...

It's rare to find a book for older children than handles grief so well. This book is slight, and the plot is definitely secondary to the characters. It's a "typical" Newbery winner in many ways (realistic fiction, female protagonist, plot less important than character development), but that doesn't take away from the fact that it is very, very well written.
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LibraryThing member cammykitty
I had heard this was a great book but had been avoiding it for awhile because I thought it was going to be lugubrious. It isn't. Bridge over Teribithia is a far more lugubrious book. Missing May is about the mourning process, but it is also about how people help each other through a crisis.

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the crazy boy who collects things, attaches himself to the mourning Summer and Ob. His exuberance keeps the book moving, as does the twist of May perhaps not being totally gone.

A good book, and certainly a good one for children to read so they are better prepared to handle mourning. Sadly, it's an experience most people have to go through at some point.
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LibraryThing member debnance
Why is it that I have become such a big Cynthia Rylant fan, especially loving her Mr. Putter and Tabby series, a series of very short chapter books, and yet I found this book too short? Missing May is the story of a girl, Summer, who lost her parents and thought she'd never find love again. Then
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she came to live with Aunt May and Uncle Ob. May and Ob were the embodiment of love. Summer was rapturously happy until one day May collapsed and died while working in her garden.Ob and Summer were filled with despair. They frantically tried to contact May in the spirit world, but everything they tried failed. It is only with the help from a boy from Summer's school, Cletus, that Ob and Summer begin to heal and find a way to miss May without falling into despondency.
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LibraryThing member tjsjohanna
This short volume about the pain of losing a loved one is made more poignant given Summer's background of losing a mother and being passed around her extended family, before coming to live with her Uncle Ob and Aunt May. While Summer is very concerned about her uncle, ultimately, the story is about
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her own grief and coming to terms with her own loss. A wonderful book for anyone who has lost a loved one.
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LibraryThing member madhamster
A touching and gentle book which details Ob and Summer's life after May's, Ob's wife, death. Ob believes May is still there and enlists the help of Cletus, a misfit from Summer's school, in order to communicate with May. Cletus was chosen as he had been through a near-death experience as a child.
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In order to bring May to them Ob talks about May, and the little things that made her special. For Summer it was "more comfort, more real ... than May's true funeral had been. Seems once people bring in outsiders who make a career of bereavement - undertakers, preachers - their grieving gets turned into a kind of system." Ob and Summer's search for peace and the strength to continue is finally rewarded, but not in the way Ob was expecting.
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LibraryThing member djmeyers
This book was one of the sweetest books I have read in a long time despite the emphasis on death. Having recently lost her beloved Aunt May to old age, this book deals with the grieving process of both Summer and her Uncle Ob. Focus upon special memories and the goodness of May gets both of them to
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a point of acceptance. Cynthia Rylant is one of my favorite authors because of her subject of growing up in the mountains. She writes from her own experience as a young girl growing up in the mountains of West Virginia with her grandparents. I am from the Tennessee valley, so relate to a lot of the rural topics she describes in her books-- it makes me miss home and my own grandparents!
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LibraryThing member eward06
This represents a Realistic Fiction book because it is a story that is easy to relate with and very true to life. The plot works well and a variety of people are present in the story that are all unique (Summer, Ob, May, and Cletus). Also, the setting is vivid and woven into the story instead of
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being presented all at once. Summer, the one telling the story, is a growing character because we continually learn about who she is becoming as the story unfolds. We learn how she deals with challenges and her desire to help Ob. She is revealed a great deal through her thoughts, but also through her interactions with other characters and her own actions.
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LibraryThing member candacekvance
I always come back to "Missing May". It should be required reading in the schools.
LibraryThing member MidnightTears
Rylant uses this small little book to deal with one of the hardest things in life: when a loved one passes away.

Summer has come to live with Ob and May. After Summer's mother passed away, she was just passed around family members in Ohio. Never really looked after and treated like a burden. That is
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until Ob and May come for a vist, pack her up, and take her home with them that same day.

Now, Summer and Ob are trying to find a reason to go on after May passes. They try just about everything a person could try to re-connect with May. But, once they realize the best way to do that is to live, everything just falls into place.

I'd reccomend this book for children or adults that have lost someone and still haven't quite found a place for all those feelings. Another book about a sad topic, but with a feel good ending.
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LibraryThing member tloeffler
Summer is a 12 year-old orphan, who has been living blissfully in West Virginia with her Uncle Ob and Aunt May since she was 6. One morning, Uncle Ob finds Aunt May dead in her garden. Summer's own grieving for Aunt May is complicated by her concern for Uncle Ob, who seems to have given up on
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everything. Then Summer's classmate Cletus comes to visit, and and Ob is intrigued by this boy who experienced death but came back.
A simple but powerful YA book.
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LibraryThing member Shelby09
This book is about a young girl, named Summer, who is passed around from relative to relative after both of her parents died. She ends up living with her Aunt May and Uncle Ob. In the beginning, she is very shy but she eventually grows out of it. Her Aunt May passes away and she is left with her
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grieving uncle. Now not only is she dealing with her own sadness, but she is worried about her uncle as well. They both seem to think they will never be the same again. Summer thinks she will never be able to love the same either. But when she meets a boy at her school who has experienced death and has finally gotten back to his normal, happy self again, she and her uncle are encouraged and realize that with time, they will too.
This book was kind of confusing in the end, but I did enjoy it as a whole. It gives a great example of how everyone feels pain and hurt, but it is crucial that you come back to being happy again somehow. It would be a great book to have someone read if they have lost a loved one and are feeling the way Ob or Summer felt.

In the classroom, I would have the students write their own version of the story, and what they might have felt and done during the hard times. Then we would discuss how important it is that we encourage each other each and every day, because we never know when someone around us might need it.
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LibraryThing member genevieve1331
“Missing May,” by Cynthia Rylant is a story about a young girl, Summer, and her struggle with mourning the death of her beloved Aunt May. Summer was orphaned at six, but was eventually taken in by her Aunt May and Uncle Ob who are devoted to giving her the best life possible. At the age of 12,
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Summer’s Aunt May passes and the family deals with the hardship of going on without her. Uncle Ob, seemingly on the verge of giving up, is encouraged by Summer, and her outcast friend, Cletus, to travel to the state capital to speak with a woman who can communicate with spirits. Upon their arrival, they learn that she too has passed away. Just as things look like they cannot get any worse, things look like they are starting to turn around for Summer and Uncle Ob.

This book seems to be geared toward middle school readers but I think it could be read aloud in any classroom. I think that this book would be tremendous in helping any child, or adult for that matter, mourn the death of a loved on. Although an emotional read, I think that this story can help children realize the pain that can accompany the death of a loved one and hopefully make them understand how lucky they are to have people that love them in their life.

After reading this book, children could journal or discuss a death that they may have experienced. Whether it be a family member, a friend, or a pet, children could recap on the emotions that they experienced with this death and how they learned to grieve. Children could also make a list of the things that they would do to help Summer and Uncle Ob after the passing of Aunt May. This list could help them generate ideas in the future of how to help friends with the grieving of a loved one.
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LibraryThing member msmunky
Summary This book was about Summer, orphaned at a very young age who went to live with Uncle Ob and Aunt May in West Virginia. They all lived very happily with lots of love in an old rusty trailer that was in Fayette County. Aunt May had the house all ready for Summer, with cookies, chips, candy,
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juice, marshmallows, spaghettio's and cold coke and chocolate milk. Summer was so excited and she called home "paradise". Then the worst happened, Aunt May died in the garden and all of their lives were forever changed. Now Summer was afraid that something would happen to Uncle Ob and she would be all alone. Uncle Ob said he always felt Aunt May's spirit around him. There was a strange boy, Cletus from school that had read about someone that could help Uncle Ob contact Aunt May. Through the journey of trying to make this wish come true, they all became a family and learned that no matter what they encountered, they could depend on each other. They learned that life does go on and even though they would always miss May, they had renewed their strength to go on and make it through each day.
Critique - I absolutely loved this book. It was so funny and exciting that it was very hard for me to put down. The more that I read these types of books, the better they become and I find myself wanting to read more. Great text and I enjoyed it very much.
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LibraryThing member dianaking
This book is about a young girl, Summer, whose parents have died. After being passed from relative to relatives, she ends up living with Aunt May and Uncle Ob. She arrives as a shy child and eventually overcomes the shyness. Aunt May ending up dying and Uncle Ob doesn't take her passing very well.
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I personally rated this book three stars. I didn't understand the ending. I understood that Summer finally cried, but the part about Ob left me with questions.
In the classroom, I would ask the students to compose an essay from personal experience that mentions a family member or close friend passing and how they dealt with it. Was there someone who helped you deal with it? Did it take years later? What did you gather from the experience with Missing May?
In the classroom, I would ask the students to compose an essay about a travel experience they experienced in the past. Include the individuals that came along and when it occurred. Must be at least one page in length.
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LibraryThing member mbuch
Missing May is a depressing but realistic book with well-developed characters and an unearthing plot of learning to cope with grief. May dies, leaving the three who loved her most to suffer and try to live without her in their life. After May dies, her family members continue to be heartbroken and
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distraught until they finally learn how to cope and grieve May's death while trying to live a life leaning on each other for support.

This book was very well-written with great descriptions and emotional scenes. I enjoyed reading this book and it is one I could definitely read over and over.

Newbery Medal (1993)
Boston Globe–Horn Book Award (Fiction, 1992)
ALA Best Books for Young Adults (1993)
A Horn Book Fanfare Best Book (1993)
BCCB Blue Ribbon Book (1992)
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LibraryThing member tkweekley
Probably one of my favorite children's books, and I enjoy this author. Kind of sad, but there's splashes of humor, sweetness and hope throughout.
LibraryThing member nlevanen09
Genre: This is a great example of realistic fiction because the book deals with the struggles of loosing a loved family member and the unique ways it brings people together. It has other elements of spiritualism and religion but the focus is of the struggle of "missing may."
Stars for
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Age: Intermediate
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LibraryThing member newanddifferent
A quiet, melancholy story of a small, makeshift family after the matriarch dies. Didn't really care for this one, but the writing is good.
LibraryThing member ElizabethCrow
Summary: Dealing with the death of her aunt, who was like a mother to Summer,the character in the book. She feels her own hurt and sees her uncle Ob's pain of losing his wife. While believing they cant make it without May, they began to hope for a sign, believing they get one in the book,they can
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move foward the way May would want them to.
Personal reaction: good story of how to cope and move on, that its ok to miss the peerson who is gone and go on with your own life. A very comforting book i would believe for someone who has ost someone close to them either in death or in just circumstances. Teaches and touches on hope and a way to overcome sadness, very well written.
Ext: Read to class during a time of a students loss or as a reading project to show ways of love is believing at times in miracles.Have class write on a time they believed in something, have them use correct sentence structure,proper grammer,and punctuation.
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LibraryThing member bh101971
Brent Hagen
Children’s Lit
March 15, 08
Contemporary Real Fiction
Missing May
By Cynthia Rylant
Newberry Winner

Missing May is a relevant story that walks the reader through the grieving process. Summer an orphan herself went to live with May and Ob as a young child. May and Ob took Summer into their
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lives and hearts. When May dies, suddenly Summer and Ob have a tough time coming to grips with the grieving process. Cletus, a neighbor starts hanging around and tries to bring Ob and Summer through the difficult seasons since May’s death. Cletus finds a magazine article of a spiritualist that can communicate with the dead. They plan a road trip. Upon arrival to the spiritualist’s home it is found out that the woman died some months ago. Ob is devastated. On the way home they take a side trip to the state capital of West Virginia, and Ob finds the will to live. When they return home that evening an owl comes flying out of their house. Summer suddenly breaks down with unbridled emotion. The owl was relevant because an owl swept down on May and Summer when she first arrived some years ago. May told Summer this was a good omen.
The book was well written. Death is not a subject children would tend to lean toward. The book was realistically written. It could be used as a self help for others going through a similar circumstance. The characters within the story related to each other well and each depended up the other for mere survival. The flow of the book was excellent and the reader was willing and wanting to find resolution for the characters. I can well understand why this book is a Newberry winner.
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LibraryThing member ElenaEstrada
“Missing May” Cynthia Rylant is a work of art that is truly deserving of the John Newberry Medal. Even though this book may not be for everyone, since it primarily deals with grieving the loss of a loved one, the poetic literary devices and the writing style is unique. By reading the topic, I
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thought that I would not enjoy reading it, but I read it in two sittings. I was drawn to the spirituality of the book without the religious element. The existential themes revolved around “Why are we here?” and what are the priorities that are important such as “What makes a family?” “What do children really need?” “Where do people go when they die?” “How do people recover from the death of a loved one?” and “How do people with depression find the strength to move on?” The main character Summer, her uncle Ob, and their friend Cletus create a new family as they help each other move after the death of May the matriarch of the family. Although the book may be a type of “Self-Help” book, I would be careful to recommend this book to a grieving student who is dealing with a recent death, since the literature may bring too many emotions to the surface and the child may not know how to deal with this alone.
Ages 4th and Up
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LibraryThing member goldstars
Summary- Summer, an orphaned adolescent from Ohio, recently moves to West Virginia to live with her Aunt May and Uncle Ob. Her new parents take care of her and give her a life she's never known. They are not wealthy, but provide Summer with love and adoration. The story takes place after May dies
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in her garden. Ob is heart broken and Summer is left to take care of herself and Ob. A schoolmate named Cletus enters the picture. Cletus is an outcast and a constant bother to Summer. Eventually, the three characters bond and form an incredible friendship while trying to overcome May's death.

Opinion- I enjoyed reading this book. It was unlike many books I've read. Not even 100 pages long, the book can be read very quickly. The author does not use confusing or pretentious language and is best suited for middle school aged children. I thought the plot was interesting and very somber. I enjoyed this book and will read others by Rylant.
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LibraryThing member jraeke1
I have mixed feelings about this book. I liked it because I think Cynthia Rylant does a great job of showing the appreciation the Character Summer has for her aunt and uncle. For example, on page 5 the Summer is describing her first night with her aunt and uncle in their trailer. Summer says, "That
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first night in it with Ob and May was as close to paradise as I may ever come in my life."

The thing I didn't really like about the book is that the plot in the beginning jumps around a bit. For example, it starts off with Summer talking about when May died, then it goes on to talk about how Summer ended up with her aunt and uncle then goes back to present day after May died.

The main idea in this book is that everyone grieves differently and missing a relative who has passed away is normal and okay.
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LibraryThing member Omrythea
After the death of the beloved aunt who has raised her, 12-year-old Summer and her Uncle Ob leave their West Virginia trailer in search of the strength to go on living.
This book is a gem! Much better than Walk Two Moons.

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½ (242 ratings; 3.8)
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