12 April 2014

Missing May: 1993 Newbery Award Winner

The beginning of March 2014 I started a new undertaking: reading every single Newbery Medal Winner book. A number of them I have read in the past, but I am reading them with fresh eyes,and reviewing them for others. I am not reading them in order, as some will require some effort on my part to find them all.  Want to keep track of which books I read?  Check them out at Confessions of a Wannabe Reader!

Missing May.jpg
Cover of the book - Used for illustration purposes only under the fair use clause
Aunt May: The Angel

"May Always said we were angels before we were ever people.  She said when we were finished being people we'd go back to being angels.  And we'd never feel pain again."

Twelve year old Summer has lived with her elderly Aunt May and Uncle Ob in their dilapidated West Virginia trailer since she was an orphan of six, having been shuttled from family member to family member since her mother died.  But Aunt May recently died, and her arthritic old uncle isn't doing so well missing his beloved wife, until one day he swears he feels her spirit.  With the help of a very odd schoolmate, Cletus Underwood, Summer tries to help Uncle Ob live again, and connect with the spirit of May.  She also must learn to continue living herself without May.

Missing May by Cynthia Rylant is a bittersweet short novel about grief.  May, the deceased aunt, was the glue that held both Ob and Summer together.  Her spirit kept the house from falling apart, and now she is gone.  The story has some of the same elements as Walk Two Moons, in that there is this grief that hasn't been let go yet, and that there is some wish of the characters to hold onto the living spirit of the departed. Cletus Underwood acts as the bridge between that grief and the healing that comes from letting that grief go and living again.

Missing May, like all great books, is a story of journey.  Ob and Summer both need to make a journey from what they had to what they have now, a life without the person they truly loved.  The story also reminded me of A Taste of Blackberries by Doris Buchanan Smith, which was also a book that haunted me in my childhood with its realistic portrayal of death and a child's way of dealing with it.

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