Missing May

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Overview

Since summer was six years old she lived with dear Aunt May and Uncle Ob. Now, six years later, Aunt May has died. Summer, who misses May with all her might, is afraid something will happen to Ob. Most days Ob seems like he doesn't want to go on.

But then Ob feels May's spirit around him and he wants to contact her. Cletus Underwood, a strange boy from school, reads about someone who could help him do that. Summer wants to hear from May too.

Ob...

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Overview

Since summer was six years old she lived with dear Aunt May and Uncle Ob. Now, six years later, Aunt May has died. Summer, who misses May with all her might, is afraid something will happen to Ob. Most days Ob seems like he doesn't want to go on.

But then Ob feels May's spirit around him and he wants to contact her. Cletus Underwood, a strange boy from school, reads about someone who could help him do that. Summer wants to hear from May too.

Ob and Summer don't know what to expect when they set off on their search for some sign from May. They only know they need something to ease their sorrow and give them strength to go on living—always knowing they will never stop missing may.

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This short novel is a study of grief--chiefly, that felt by Summer after her foster mother's sudden death, but also her sorrow at witnessing the grief of Ob, her foster father--she realizes that she herself may not be reason enough for him to go on living. And for several months it seems as if he may not in fact go on, until Summer and Ob take a short car trip that somehow transforms their lives. In a direct, matter-of-fact voice occasionally laced with irony and wry humor, Summer articulates many discerning insights about sorrow and loss. The reader remains a distant observer of her emotions, however--perhaps because the novel begins after May's death, making her a less immediate figure, perhaps because Summer's perceptions are quite sophisticated, even adult. And the novel's emotional turning point is difficult to grasp, either verbally or intuitively: all Summer, and we, know is that ``something happened to Ob'' to make him embrace life fully again. Ages 11-up. Mar.
Children's Literature - Jan Lieberman
This is one of the best books of 1992. When 12-year-old Summer's Aunt May dies, her Uncle Ob's grieving leaves the girl worried that she will lose him too unless she can give him a reason for living. Enter Cletus, a classmate of Summer's, weird according to Summer, but full of ideas and confidence. The 3 go on a trek to find May's spirit and in the process find inner strength in their friendship. What makes this book so memorable in Rylant's writing. In 89 pages, she paints vivid word pictures of the characters and gives us an intimate view of Summer and her deepest feeling for May and Ob that lasts long after the book is closed. 1993 (orig.
Children's Literature - Susie Wilde
The Newbery winner for 1992 was Missing May by Rylant, a novel with a dark quality. The heroine, Summer, has been shifted from relative to relative for the first six years of her life. Finally she comes to live with Aunt May and Uncle Ob, two people rich in love, but poor in funds. The death of May intrudes just when Summer is feeling secure in her life. Rylant lets children know family doesn't necessarily have a typical configuration and that humor and love cross economic lines.
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-- They've been a family for half of Summer's 12 years, and when her Aunt May dies, a little bit of Summer and her uncle Ob dies too--and his whirligigs go ``still as night.'' Ob's 'gigs are his ``mysteries,'' works of art that capture the essence of Storms, Heaven, Fire, Love, Dreams . . . and May. For a time, he seems to be failing, and Summer fears she'll lose him, as well. Then he claims to have been visited by May's spirit. And, stranger still to Summer, he takes a liking to that ``flat out lunatic,'' Cletus Underwood. Lunatic or no, Cletus steps unhesitatingly into the space May has left, and all three take off on a journey in search of May. It's an ill - fated journey that, nevertheless, lets Ob and Summer turn a corner in their grieving--and sets Ob free. With homely detail, Rylant plunges readers into the middle of Summer's world, creating characters certain to live long in their memories. Her tightly woven plot wastes no words; May's death and the course of her husband and niece's grieving are both reflected in and illuminated by the state of Ob's mysteries and the course of that interrupted journey of discovery. There is much to ponder here, from the meaning of life and death to the power of love. That it all succeeds is a tribute to a fine writer who brings to the task a natural grace of language, an earthly sense of humor, and a well-grounded sense of the spiritual. --Marcia Hupp, Mamaroneck Pub. Lib., NY
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-In spare, graceful prose, 12-year-old Summer talks about her deceased Aunt May, who raised her, and attempts to get beyond her own grief and to help her uncle survive. The characters are simple people without means, but their wisdom and love for one another transcend earthly bounds. March, 1992
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780439771283
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/16/2005
  • Pages: 89
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.34 (w) x 7.72 (h) x 0.35 (d)

Meet the Author


As a child in West Virginia, Cynthia Rylant never dreamed of becoming a writer. In her free time, she devoured Archie comic books and paperback romances and enjoyed the outdoors. But after taking one college English class, she was, “hooked on great writing… I didn’t know about this part of me until I went to college-didn’t know I loved beautiful stories.” And one night, inspired by the Southern writer James Agee, she sat down and wrote When I Was Young in the Mountains. Named a Caldecott Honor Book and an ALA Notable Book, it was an instant success.

Since that night, Rylant hasn’t stopped creating wonderful books. Her stories explore friendship, love, grief, and other mysteries, and often draw on her memories of growing up in Appalachia. “I get a lot of personal gratification thinking of those people who don’t get any attention in the world and making them really valuable in my fiction-making them absolutely shine with their beauty.”

She lives with her many pets in the Pacific Northwest.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 34 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(8)

4 Star

(10)

3 Star

(10)

2 Star

(4)

1 Star

(2)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 34 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2010

    missing may

    This book was very interesting to read.It is about a girl who was taken away from her mom.Then moves with her aunt and uncle.The next day her aunt dies. Now she is stuck with her uncle. This book takes place in West Virgina. They went other places like West Virgina's state capital. In the hot spectacular weather.
    I liked this book because the author put a lot of details into it. She gave it a lot of enthusiasm. It also was like a text to self for me. The way she described it also helps me picture the book in my mind.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 29, 2008

    Can feel warmth in one sitting

    This short novel, Missing May, has its positive sides and negative sides. The book starts with the death of Summer¿s foster mother, May. As the story goes on, we can see and feel the hardships of Summer and Ob¿his foster father. Missing May was beyond my expectations, with its simple yet delicate touch. This book is worth a try, especially to people who have never experienced such an abrupt opening in a book. The resolution and the warmth it brings will not leave my memories for a long time.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2014

    Cursing is NOT exceptable...

    Whoever wrote this book shouldbe ashamed!!!!!!!!!! I am a Christian, and books for KIDS( well in fact all ages) that have cursing in them should not be outbthere for children to read. I didnt read te book but I read the reviews, and that was enough. Books about communicating with the dead-- well, i you give them to the right kids who know that that definitely isnt real-- maybe. Probably NOT. Did I mention that I am ten? I had tobgive it a star because it wouldnt let me post without giving thebook a stae.

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  • Posted July 15, 2013

    As I would see the title of this book on lists of award winners,

    As I would see the title of this book on lists of award winners, I always guessed that it was probably about a little girl named May who went missing. Boy, was I wrong! When twelve-year-old Summer was six, her mother died, and after being passed from house to house by her mother’s brothers and sisters in Ohio, she came to live with her Aunt May and Uncle Ob in a rusty old trailer at Deep Water in Fayette County, WV. Now Aunt May has died while out working in her garden, and both Summer and Uncle Ob miss her terribly. Then one day Ob claims that May has sent him a sign from the spirit world, but when he fails to hear any more, he seems to be losing the will to go on living, and Summer just doesn’t know what to do about it because she’s feeling sad and forlorn herself.

    However, their neighbor and Summer’s odd seventh-grade classmate Cletus Underwood, who has collected a suitcase full of newspaper clippings, has a suggestion on how Uncle Ob, whom he has befriended, can find some comfort. What is it? Will it work? And what will happen to Ob? This book, which won the Newbery Medal in 1993, probably because someone thought that it was a good book to explain death and how kids deal with it, is a strange story. Certainly, mourning over the loss of a loved one is something that we’ve all felt. Of course, Christians learn to handle such situations by turning to the “…God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulations…” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). While there are a few Biblical references scattered here and there, it is plain that Aunt May and Uncle Ob are not very religious. So where do Cletus, Summer, and Ob turn to find help? They set off in search of the Reverend Miriam B. Young, Small Medium at Large and “pastor” of The Spiritualist Church of Glen Meadows, who claims to communicate with the dead. For Bible believers, the theology behind this book is just plain poor.

    I realize that various people grieve differently and seek comfort in their own way, and in the end things seem to turn out all right in the book, but many parents will likely be concerned about the themes of “spiritualism,” seeking answers with mediums, and communicating with the dead. As others have noted, if people do not wish their children to be exposed to these issues in a positive light or would prefer to discuss them with their children in view of their own values, they would not have a clue about the content from the book summary. As to language, in addition to several common euphemisms (blamed, holy crap, heck, bejeezus, and even “swear to God” as an interjection), both Ob and Summer use the “h” word, Ob uses the “d” word, and after using “a few choice swear words” he once said that cussing was like taking a strong drink of whiskey because both thawed him out and got his engine running again. In And the Winner Is…A Guide to Newbery Medal Winners from a Christian Perspective, Barb Brandeis and Deb Ekstrand, wrote, “Uses bad language. If this is the best literature of the year, 1992 was a BAD year.” I don’t really recommend Missing May.

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  • Posted March 2, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Another book about grief

    After the death of her aunt May, Summer must deal with her own grief as well as the ensuing depression of her bereaved uncle. Short, cute book about dealing with death. Nothing amazing. I think Newbery judges just really like books about grief.

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  • Posted January 27, 2012

    Great book!

    The book Missing May is about a young girl named Summer. She was only six years when she was adopted by a couple with names of May and Ob. They adopted her because both of her parents died. When she moved in, May and Ob loved her very much. They fed her and took very good care of her. Six years later May died and Summer and Ob were devastated. Ob felt as if he could just quit breathing and die. Then a boy that Summer knows came along. He collected many things. He collected old pictures the most. Ob and Summer found him looking through their old car for pictures. Ob invited him in and they became really good friends later on. He made Ob feel as if he had a purpose of living still. They hang out almost every day. Ob believes that May is on her way back. He says she has been sending signs to him from the spirit world. Ob, Summer, and Cletus Underwood. Go on a trip. They go to search for a bat lady that supposedly can connect with spirits. Ob says after they talk to the bat lady they all can go have fun and go visit historic places. They go to see the bat lady and they knock on the door. A boy answers and said the lady passed away not too long ago. Ob suddenly becomes filled with sorrow. They still go and have fun though. This book interested me very much. I suggest that all children my age should read it. I usually don’t read a lot of books but this one is really good. The characters turn from happy to sad throughout the book. I could picture the book in my mind. The author put really good details in it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2011

    Meaningful short read for students

    This is a sweet story that I use with my students in reading groups. There are elements of humor and mysteriousness that children latch onto and keep them entertained while reading this book. There are many things to discuss and think about while reading this text concerning loss of a loved one and coping with tragedy.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2011

    Can feel warmth

    This short novel, Missing May, has its positive sides and negative sides. The book starts with the death of Summer's foster mother, May. As the story goes on, we can see and feel the hardships of Summer and Ob_his foster father. Missing May was beyond my expectations, with its simple yet delicate touch. This book is worth a try, especially to people who have never experienced such an abrupt opening in a book. The resolution and the warmth it brings will not leave my memories for a long time.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 22, 2011

    Letting go..

    This is such a wonderful story about learning to cope with the loss of a loved one. This is something that everyone will experience in his or her lifetime. The hardest thing I can imagine is losing ones mother, and that is exactly what the main character Summer loses. May was the wife of Ob and mother to Summer. When she passed away Ob and May were highly affected by her death. It was as if their worlds had stopped. May was always on their minds and they did nothing but miss her. Ob would say that he could still feel her and needed to contact her one last time in order to get closure. With the help of Summer's classmate Cletus, they went on search of contacting May to finally say goodbye and to be able to move on with their lives and be able to stop missing May.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2010

    its not the best

    I did not like the book very much. I thought it was very slow moving and that it was hard to understand what was going on. I did think the book was very touching.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 23, 2007

    Missing May

    This book would be good for 4th graders and 5th graders! IT deals with death and students could really relate to that subject!IT falls under the realistic Genre! I love this book because it is sweet. ' What is the true mission of Spirit messages? To bring Consolation in the sorrows of life!Rylant, Cynthia. Missing May. New York, NY: Orchard Book, 1992.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2006

    Read this book Missing May

    In this book the girls name is summer. summer is going to be sad because something is going to happen to May .Enjoy this book!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2006

    Honestly, How'd it Win an Award?

    This book was touching and descriptive. It had me near tears at some points, but it was a little boring and rushed. And the whole idea was a little boring. It was an okay book, but in my opinion, not an award winner.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2006

    Newberry Medal: Missing May

    This Newberry Medal book is written by Cynthia Rylant. Rylant is known for her picture book texts. Her words make the book become alive, and they allow the reader to get to know Summer, the main character. This is a book of dark quality, and I'm not sure I would recommend this book. Summer gets passed around for six years. Finally, May and Ob became Summer's foster parents. May dies and Ob becomes full of grief. 'I never saw two people love each other so much.' In order to make Ob feel better, Summer tries to come up with an idea to help him. Summer, her classmate, and Ob set out in search for May's spirit, and they learn how good their friendship is. Rylant, Cynthia. Missing May. New York: Orchard, 1992. Reading level: 5th-8th Grade

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2006

    Missing May

    Missing May is a book based on lady named May that dies, leaving behind a husband and a foster daughter. They are shockingly sad and miss her terribly. Summer is worried about Ob that he is grieving himself to death. She feels that she is not enough to keep him thriving so she has to do something or she will lose him too. With the help from her school friend Cletus Underwood they try to help Ob connect with May¿s spirit. This setting and moral of this book deemed dragged out, not every really getting to a point. I think this would be ok for fifth grade and up, some would have a hard time staying interested being that the concept overall was depressing.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2006

    Missing May

    This wonderful book 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 the death. Cletus, a neighbor and mysticism. boy, comes along to help provide an answer. This simple and sweet story, which won the Newbery Medal in 1993, is injected with just the right touches of humor.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2006

    Missing May

    This simple and sweet story revolves around a few delightfully named characters: Summer, Uncle Ob, Aunt May and Cletus Underwood. Cletus, a neighbor boy, comes along to help solve the situation. Summer and Uncle Ob are brought together to bring to terms about the death. This book has won a medal in 1993. I would recommend this book for grades 5 through 7.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2006

    We all have someone we're missing...

    I thought this was a good book. The author¿s description made the story come alive. I really felt bad for Summer and Ob. They loved May and wanted to believe she was coming back. Anyone who has lost a loved one knows how hard this can be.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 2, 2006

    A bit weak but not entirely disappointing

    Missing May is a story of how a young girl copes with the death of her beloved aunt. I expected more from this newbery book. The story was descriptive but weak. The writing, to me, was not that good. I was searching for the ending after I finished reading the book. I could not find it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2005

    confusing

    this book is weird. it is terribly boring.it made no sense.it was really confusing.

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