Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Missing May by Cynthia Rylant and A Taste of Blackberries by Doris Buchanan Smith

At this time of year we start to review our library collection and "weed" out the older books that are beyond repair, or have not been borrowed or books that just look too old to appeal to our students.

Our library copies of these two classic books are so old the paper has turned brown so last week I bought them home to re-read before I purchase replacements.

I do remember A taste of Blackberries (1973) as a very sad book but oddly on this re-reading it did not seem quite so sad.  I imagine on my first reading I missed some of the signposts that Doris Buchanan Smith includes that give a hint of Jamie's mortality.  He loves a challenge - especially one that pushes his physical limits into dangerous situations and he is not scared that the farmer might shoot him for stealing apples.

The idea of collecting Japanese beetles from Mrs Houser's yard seems quite simple but no one could anticipate that bees lived there too or know that Jamie would have such a violent and ultimately deadly reaction.  I did enjoy re-reading A taste of Blackberries but I think the resolution of grief is a little simplistic.  That said, this is an important story and I will buy a new copy for our library.

Missing May (1992) is a better book with the same theme of how we cope with grief.  Summer has lost her parents and after being sent to live with a succession of family members is taken in my May and Ob.

"That first night ... with Ob and May was as close to paradise as I may every come in my life.  Paradise because these two old people - who never dreamed they'd be bringing a little girl back from their visit with the relatives in Ohio - started from the minute we pulled up in Ob's old Valiant, to turn their rusty, falling-down place into a house just meant for a child. ...  I was six years old and I had come home."

Missing May is such a special book. (Newbery winner 1993)  Every word is carefully chosen and the insights into Summer herself along with her love and care of Ob are profound.  If you enjoy a sad and thoughtful book Missing May is perfect. You might also enjoy the books in the Silk series and Dicey's Song.  Here are some teacher notes for Missing May.  You might also like to read the Kirkus Review.

1 comment:

kinderbooks said...

Pleased to hear you are replacing them. I think they are important books for allowing students to grieve vicariously and for developing empathy. For me they are in the same category as Bridge to Terabithia and Pearl S. Buck's The Big Wave.