by Cynthia Rylant
Recommended Age: 10+
This book won the 1993 Newbery Medal for children’s literature. Like its author, the story’s narrator — Summer is her name — is growing up in the hills of West Virginia, and shows signs of being a writer herself someday. But right now, all she cares about is keeping her family together.
Summer has good reason to worry. Her mother died when she was very little (her father is never even mentioned). She is passed from one group of relatives to another, and never feels loved or wanted until her elderly aunt and uncle from Deep Water, West Virginia, take her in. Uncle Ob is tall, thin, arthritic, and deeply devoted to his wife, May, who is plump, diabetic, and the kind of person who brings out the best in people. Together they make the loving family Summer needs — for six years — until the day May falls down in her garden and never gets up again.
Missing May is about a girl and an old man learning to go on with their lives after a shattering loss. It is about searching for unconditional love and a reason to live, and keeping it when you’ve got it. It’s about letting someone you love go, and yet always having them in your heart. It’s not a very hefty book, but if you know people like Ob and May, or if you have experienced deep and lasting grief, you may find that it hits hard and penetrates deep. I recommend keeping a pile of facial tissue on hand, about the same thickness as the book.
Ms. Rylant is the author of other children’s titles including The Heavenly Village, Gooseberry Park, and The Van Gogh Café. EDIT: Her book A Fine White Dust was a Newbery Honor Book. She has also written several extensive series of children's books, including the Henry and Mudge, High Rise Private Eyes, Mr. Putter and Tabby, and Poppleton series.