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Missing May

Updated on August 30, 2017

Missing May: A Great Middle Grade Read... and All Ages Read-Aloud

Some books pack a tremendous amount of wisdom into a slim 80 pages. Cynthia Rylant's Missing May is one such book. I was introduced to it in The College of Education. "Missing May" was the 1993 Newbery Award Winner at a time when Newbery medals were going mostly to contemporary 'problem novels'. Those of us in the College of Education who read the story agreed with the Newbery committee -- Missing May was the best of the best.

Missing May is told by a twelve-year-old Appalachian girl named Summer, whose voice is at once sensitive and quirky and deceptively simple. Summer is a child who had to grow up fast; she was an unwanted orphan until the age of six. At this time, a couple of distant relatives, May and Ob, swooped down and claimed her. She was then given a few good years -- perfect in her eyes -- but now she is twelve, and her beloved May has died. After May's death, Uncle Ob seems unable to go on.

The only person who manages to get through to Ob is Summer's classmate, the school 'geek'. He first showed up on their property looking for old pictures and now spends more and more time with them. Cletus finds a clipping about a bat woman, "a small medium at large", who can communicate with spirits. And so they make plans to visit the bat woman, while also dropping in on the state capitol (a place where Cletus, who has never been more than a short drive from his own home, envisions himself working someday).

But things don't work out as planned. When they get to the bat woman's church, they learn that she herself has died -- she is flying free like the bats, her nephew tells them. This is the end, Summer thinks, this is the time when they abandon all their dreams, and go back to a small cottage, to four closed in walls, and an old man's declining will to stay alive. They start for home, and then for reasons unknown to her, Ob turns the car back around and takes Cletus on a tour of the capitol after all. The next morning, Summer awakes to the sounds and smells of breakfast being fried -- and to a vivid image of May.

Missing May is a great family read-aloud, all the more so because of the voice and the colorful language. Written for middle graders, it is almost an all ages book. I've known adults who have loved the story.

Missing May Paperback

Twelve-year-old Summer narrates a tale of loss -- and of the triumph of love over loss. A short tale with some deep themes, Missing May makes an excellent family read-aloud.

Missing May
Missing May

Twelve-year-old summer narrates a tale of loss -- and of the triumph of love over loss. A short tale with some deep themes, Missing May makes an excellent family read-aloud.


Deceptively simple and brimming with voice, Missing May packs a lot of wisdom into a slim volume.

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    • LaraineRoses profile image

      Laraine Sims 7 years ago from Lake Country, B.C.

      Another book I will add to my read list. Thank you.

    • LotusMalas profile image

      LotusMalas 7 years ago

      Sounds very fascinating!

    • aidenw profile image

      aidenw 7 years ago from USA

      I have not read it but it sounds like an interesting story.