Newbery Book Review

Missing May

The other night I made my own calendar in order to put in writing which Newbery book accompanies which week, month, and yes, year.  If I stay true to my goal by reading a Newbery a week I won’t finish until the last week of Febrary 2011.  Whew.  I have doubts as to my own dedication but I’m willing to give it a shot.

Actually, in the last two weeks I’ve gone a little Newbery crazy and have checked out more books from the library than I know what to do with.  The 2010 Newbery medal is announced in January and in the months preceding there are debates regarding which book will be chosen.  A blog that I follow rather closely, facilitates such discussions and gives suggestions of books that might be in the running.  Well, needless to say I have a good chunk of those books sitting on my desk at the moment.  How will I read my Newbery book a week plus some?  Who knows.  But it sure is fun trying.

Speaking of fun, it is amazing how doing what you are really passionate about makes the rest of life good.  My last post was, in a few words, about having the courage to step out and embrace beauty, which is what I’m trying my best to do.  What that entails for me is volunteering at the library once a week, reading a wide range of children’s literature, writing here every week and attempting to publish a short work of children’s fiction.  It’s scary and a bit time-consuming but I love it.  Wholeheartedly.

And speaking of love, I loved Missing May.

DSCN0156It was an incredibly short read but extremely heartfelt and worth the few hours commitment.  Summed up it is a book about grief.  The main character is Summer, a 12 year old girl who had been taken in by her older relatives Ob and May when she was 3.  When May dies it leaves Summer fearful of losing Ob as well because of how hard he takes the loss.  An unexpected friend, Cletus, appears on the scene and brings with him a sense of security and hope.  He’s weird and Summer doesn’t like him at first but I think that Cletus is part of the reason that both Ob and Summer are able to grieve in the way they need to and ultimately move on and choose life.  Here’s an excerpt from the story regarding how to grieve:

“Seems once people bring in outsiders who make a career of bereavement – undertakers, preachers – their grieving gets turned into a kind of system, like the way everybody lines up the same way to go in to a movie or sits the same way in a doctor’s office.  All Ob and me wanted to do when we lost May was hold onto each other and wail in that trailer for days and days.  But we never got the chance, because just like there are certain ways people expect you to get married, or go to church, or raise kids, there are certain ways people expect you to grieve. …People wanted us to grieve proper” (pg. 36).

It’s true that we do live in a society where we’re expected to act, feel, grieve a certain way.  Cynthia Rylant, author of Missing May, shows Ob and Summer acting like people think they should but then swinging to the opposite extreme when they attempt to have a spiritualist contact May from the dead.  When that doesn’t work, oddly enough, the true grieving, and as a result the true healing, takes place.  For Ob grieving meant putting someone elses wants and needs before his own and for Summer it meant sobbing her eyes out until she had no tears left.

I’m thankful this book exists because as depressing as the topic of death and grief is, it is a reality we all have to face.  Unfortunately, even kids have to face it sometimes.  And though I haven’t read all the kids books out there dealing with grief this is one I’d definitely recommend to a young individual going through just that.

I did make the mistake of directly after finishing this book picking up and finishing another that is a possible 2010 Newbery contender called, When the Whistle Blows.  Forrest came upstairs to find me crying as I was finishing it, and when I saw him I said through tears, “why do children’s books have to be so sad??”  It is a topic I’m interested in discussing if anyone is interested.  Oh, and even though it was sad it was also a good read.

Till next time…


One thought on “Missing May

  1. Elizabeth, I am so glad you’re back on a regular blogging routine – your reflections are honest, insightful, and inspiring. Thank you for allowing those of us who aren’t on the Newbery Quest to sample each book through you. The review of Missing May reminded me of Ida B and Walk Two Moons; perhaps there is a very special niche of children’s literature that addresses grief – it’s more honest and real than nonfiction books for adults on the topic.

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