Missing May
by: Cynthia Rylant
 book talk

author study

classroom connections

list of related books

web activity



Book Summary

     The 1993 Newberry Medal winning book Missing May, by Cynthia Rylant, revolves around a few delightfully named characters:  Summer, Uncle Ob, Aunt May, and Cletus Underwood.  After being passed among relatives, Summer joins her aunt and uncle and marvels at the couple's deep love for one another.  But after Aunt May dies, Summer and Uncle Ob are brought together in their struggles to come to terms with her death.  Cletus, a neighborhood boy and friend of Uncle Ob's, comes along to help provide an answer as Uncle Ob and Summer travel through the capital city to find a person who can communicate with the dead.  When their trip fails, Uncle Ob and Summer must find another way of dealing with their grief.  Rylant is clearly a gifted author as she writes about a familiar theme -love- in this case, as it can inform and transform grief.  This book would be appropriate for fourth grade and up.  It could lead to many classroom activities such as reading the book aloud to the class, having the students read it independently, or having the students reflect on the book in a journal entry.

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Author study

Cynthia Rylant was born in Hopewell, Virginia. Her parents were divorced by the time she was four years old. After her parents got divorced, her mother took her to Cool Ridge, West Virginia to live with her grandparents until her mother was done with nursing school. Her grandparents house had no electricity and no running water. They did not have a car so they did not go far from the house. When Cynthia was eight, she and her mother moved to Beaver, West Virginia.

After high school, Cynthia went to what is now the University of Charleston. She completed her Master's degree in English at Marshall University. She was able to read many children's books when she got her job in the children's section of the Akron Public Library. Her first book was When I Was Young in the Mountains in 1982. She writes about the integrity of family and family life with all of its joys and hardships. Since 1982 Cynthia Rylant has written poems, picture books, novels and short stories for children.

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Classroom connections

- Have the students create their own whirligigs.
-Have the students study the Appalachian culture of West Virginia and create a travel brochure.
- Have the students write a letter about a family member that is important to them.
-Have the students plan as though they are going to take a journey.  Have the students choose their destination, transportation, and supplies.
- Rewrite the ending where Uncle Ob gets to talk to Miriam B. Young.
- Have students track wind direction using their whirligigs.

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Related Books

Books by the Same Author:

All I See  New York:  Orchard Books, 1998
An Angel for Solomon Singer  New York:  Orchard Books, 1992
Best Wishes  New York:  Richard C. Owen Publishers Inc., 1992
A Blue-Eyed Daisy  New York:  Bradbury Press
Miss Maggie  New York:  EP Dutton, 1983

Books about Death:

The Barn by Avi:  Orchard Books, 1994
Two Moons in August by Martha Brooks:  Joy Street Books, 1992
Fox Song by Joseph Druchae: Philomel, 1993
The Falcon's Wing by Dawn Lisa Buchanan:  Orchard Books, 1992
Tell Me Everything by Carolyn Coman:  Farrar, Straws and Giroux, 1993

Books about Spirits and Ghosts:

Chesire Moon by Nancy Butts:  Front Street, 1996
Walk Two Moon by Sharon Creech:  HarperCollins, 1994
The Shadow Children by Steven Schnur:  Morrow, 1994
Cattail Moon by Jean Thesman:  Orchard Books, 1994
The Ghost Comes Calling by Betty Ren Wright:  Scholastic Books, 1994

Books about Serious Issues:

Eclipse by Kristine L. Franklin:  Candlewick, 1995
Amazing Gracie by AE Cannon:  Massmarket, 1996
Ben's Story by Trudy Carlson:  1998
A Christmas Star by Linda Oatman High:  1997
Edgar Badger's Butterfly Day by Monica Kulling:  1999
Mercy's Birds by Linda Holeman:  1998
Daddy's Climbing Tree by CS Adler:  Clarion Books, 1993

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Web activity

In Missing May there are several references to bats throughout the story. As a science and technology connection, have the students access the Echo the Bat website at http://imagers.gsfc.nasa.gov/intro/story.html.

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Related Web sites

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Website compiled by:
Carrie Rauer
Kara Clark
Kristin Knode
Terry Davis
Janine Edwards