06 June 2018

Cynthia Rylant: An Appreciation

I was first introduced to Cynthia Rylant by a dear friend of mine. She was an elementary teacher and lent me a number of her personal children's books to read, basically re-introducing me to a world of literature that I had missed during my teen and college years.

She placed Missing May in my hands and told me to read it. It was a paperback with that familiar gold Newbery medal on the cover, and it was thin. I probably read it during one lunch break at my summer job.

What a stunning little book! In so few pages, Rylant describes a girl who has lost many people in her life but doesn't let that stop her from forming a new family and learning to live with those losses. It is the perfect book for a child to read who has lost a loved one. It reassures children that it is okay to miss someone but also encourages them not to wallow in that grief. It's one of the most realistic depictions of a child recovering from a loved one's death that I've ever read.

I've since read many other books by Rylant, and each one is a gem. I'm especially fond of her poetry book God Went to Beauty School. It's full of poems about God celebrating what we would consider mundane pleasures in life and finding the absolute beauty, the true awesomeness of life. Take this segment from the title poem:
He got into nails, of course,
because He'd always loved
hands were some of the best things
He'd ever done
and this way He could just
hold one in His
and admire those delicate
bones just above the knuckles,
delicate as birds' wings,
and after He'd done that
He could paint all the nails
any color He wanted,
then say,
and mean it.
Isn't that wonderful? I adore Cynthia Rylant's work. Take some time and enjoy her work for yourself.

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