Missing May and A Blue-Eyed Daisy (bibliographic information and a short synopsis for both are on page II) are two of Cynthia Rylant's books for older children/young adults. Both books have a young girl as the protagonist (Summer/Ellie), who wrestle with the bigger issues in life: belonging, friendship, fear and death. Cynthia Rylant has an uncanny ability of voicing the feelings and concerns of young teen/preteen girls in these two works.
Missing May is centrally focused around one topic; juggling Summer's own and her uncle's grief with the death of beloved Aunt May. Along with the grief though, Summer has to cope with the fear of Uncle Ob not wanting to care for her anymore. At the end of Missing May, Summer finally allows her bottled up fear to escape.
Whereas, A Blue-Eyed Daisy chronicles major events in the life of eleven-year-old Ellie, such as finding a best friend, her first kiss etc. She is able to express her feelings more readily than Summer. For example, she calls the emergency room to speak with a nurse when she is fearful about having epileptic fits. After a boy is killed in a shooting accident she is able to tell her dad that he is making her nervous when he moves while she is target shooting.
Both books have an intimation of the basic fear of not being cared for. Summer feels it most when Uncle Ob is so lost in his grief that he stops taking care of her. She is old enough to clothe her self, feed herself; however, the care that Rylant hints at is the care of being loved, wanted and belonging somewhere and to someone. Ellie's father, who is hurt after a mining accident at work, becomes an alcoholic. She suffers through losing a father's care due to his illness. In both books there are glimmers of hope for the relationships. Both books end on a positive note.
Both books include a hint at God and religion, but not necessarily in a positive way. In Missing May the characters go looking for a spiritual medium who can speak to the dead. In A Blue-Eyed Daisy Ellie picks up a Bible when her dad is in the hospital and reads it, but instead of gathering comfort, Ellie admits that it makes no sense to her.
Rylant uses an owl in both books. In Missing May it seems to be symbolism from her aunt, as if she is telling her that everything will be okay. The symbolism, if any, is not as clear in A Blue-Eyed Daisy. Rylant characteristically uses animals in her books.
Karen Ray of the New York Times Book Reviews had this to say about Cynthia Rylant..."Ms. Rylant writes award winning everything; picture books, humor, poetry, short stories and nonfiction. But it is her novels for young adults that her spare language, sense of place and deceptively simple stories explode most effectively
(Educational Paperback Association).
Educational Paperback Association. 2003. EPA's top 100 authors: Cynthia Rylant. Available from http://www.edupaperback.org/showauth.cfm?authid=40. Accessed 10 July 03.
Frederick, Heather Vogel.1997. Cynthia Rylant: a quiet and reflective craft. Publishers Weekly 244 (29): 178. In EBSCOhost [database online]. Available from http://ezproxy.twu.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.epnet.com/direct.asp?db=tfh&jid=%22PWK%22&scope=site. Accessed 10 July 03.