keeperMissing May by Cynthia Rylant
Release Date: June 1, 2004
Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: starstarstarstarstar
Buy It: Amazon | IndieBound

This critically acclaimed winner of the Newbery Medal and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award joins Scholastic’s paperback line.

When May dies suddenly while gardening, Summer assumes she’ll never see her beloved aunt again. But then Summer’s Uncle Ob claims that May is on her way back–she has sent a sign from the spirit world.

Summer isn’t sure she believes in the spirit world, but her quirky classmate Cletus Underwood–who befriends Ob during his time of mourning–does. So at Cletus’ suggestion, Ob and Summer (with Cletus in tow) set off in search of Miriam B. Young, Small Medium at Large, whom they hope will explain May’s departure and confirm her possible return. – Goodreads

Continuing my reading for literacy class with another Newbery winner, this book was guaranteed by my professor to require a box of tissues. Considering everything from Pampers commercials to inspirational tweets makes me cry these days, I figured I needed at least two boxes. She was right. This book is quick, only 89 pages, and I was feeling the tears coming on page two. Summer is an orphan whose mother died when she was young, and she was passed from aunt to uncle until finally May and Ob visited Ohio and took her away with them. For six years Summer has lived a fantastic existence in the mountains with her aunt and uncle, and she’s happy. Until May is suddenly gone, and Ob and Summer are, in Summer’s words, “lost.” I know what that kind of lost feels like.

When crazy Cletus Underwood shows up, Summer is skeptical but Ob is sort of rejuvenated. As Summer puts it, “Ob appreciated anyone crazier than him.” Cletus is a collector of random junk who claims to have had a near-death experience. This endears him to Ob even more, and Summer starts referring to Cletus as “the afterlife antenna.” This book touched me in a lot of ways. I’ve known some terrible grief, and this book is just full of it. Summer has a grown up mind in a twelve-year-old body, and she says things that I have thought myself. Things like, “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” and “we had to see them watching our faces for any sign of a nervous breakdown” and “May’s funeral turned Ob and me into temporary sort of socialites, and we never really got the chance to howl and pull our hair out. People wanted us to grieve proper.”

This book made me cry. A lot. But it was so good, so easy, so relatable, so Newbery, if that makes sense. It’s a great book for late elementary and middle-school, and it’s great for adults, especially those of us who have forgotten what it’s like to be adrift as a preteen, unsure of ourselves and the world, and how to make our own way in it. I loved this book dearly.