Cynthia Rylant

Author Study

About the Author

Cynthia Rylant (born June 6, 1954), born in Hopewell, West Virginia, is an American author and librarian. She has written more than 100 children's books, including works of fiction (picture books, short stories and novels), nonfiction, and poetry.

Many of Rylant's books are about her childhood in Appalachia, her pets, the joys and hardships of family life, and the feelings of loners. Many of her books are written in series.

"I did not plan to become a writer. But I did want to be useful and to do something meaningful.

I grew up in a large coal-mining family in West Virginia. I loved school and my bike and twirling a baton. I had a happy, peaceful life in the mountains, and that life inspired many of my books, including When I Was Young in the Mountains, The Relatives Came, The Blue Hill Meadows, Christmas in the Country, and Snow." - Rylant

Missing May

Summer is a young girl that faces many sad moments during her life in Cynthia Rylant’s Missing May. After her mother dies none of the family wants her except her Uncle Ob and Aunt May. After living with them for a couple years May passes away and leaves Ob and Summer to live alone in the Appalachians of West Virginia. One day when Ob thinks he feels May’s presence he is determined to feel it again. Cletus Underwood suggests he should see a spiritualist, and so Summer, Ob, and Cletus travel to Putnam County in hopes of communicating with May. Will Ob feel May’s presence one more time or will this be a trip wasted?

Compare & Contrast


When I was Young in the Mountains (1982), All I see (1988,) Missing May (1992), and Snow (2008)

At least 3 out of the 4 books are inspired from living in West Virginia. All I See may be inspired when she lived in Oregon and saw a whale’s tail in the water but that is only my assumption.

All 4 books relate to the outdoors.

All except All I See relates to family.

Friendship is apparent in all books.


All I See has a plot revolved around painting.

Snow is about the different types of snow and the joys it brings.

When I was Young in the Mountains describes the living conditions that Cynthia endured and enjoyed.

Missing May describes the death of family members and the hope of communicating with the afterlife.


Rylant has received a number of awards and honors for her work. A Fine White Dust (1987) won a Newbery Honor, and Missing May (1993) won a Newbery Medal.When I Was Young in the Mountains (1982) and The Relatives Came (1985) received Caldecott Honors. The Relatives Came and Appalachia: The Voices of Sleeping Birds (1991) are each Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor Books, as is Missing May, which deals with the loss of a loved one. A Kindness (1988), Soda Jerk (1990), and A Couple of Kooks and Other Stories about Love (1990) have each been named a "Best Book of the Year for Young Adults" by the American Library Association

Rylant's Cats

Benjamin (the young one)


Boris (the old one)