Cynthia Rylant, author of more than 100 books for young people, was born June 6, 1954, in Hopewell, Virginia, and raised in southern West Virginia. The daughter of John T. and Leatrel Smith, Rylant uses her mother’s maiden name as her pen name. She received a B.A. degree from Morris Harvey College (now University of Charleston), an M.A. from Marshall University, and an M.L.S. from Kent State University. She attributes her experiences growing up in West Virginia as the wellspring of her writing.
From ages four to eight, Rylant lived with her grandparents in rural Raleigh County, an experience celebrated in her Caldecott Honor-winning books When I Was Young in the Mountains (1982) and The Relatives Came (1985). Her first book of poetry, Waiting to Waltz (1984), draws upon the 10 years she spent living with her mother in the nearby town of Beaver. Rylant lives today in the state of Washington.
Her published works include picture books, short stories, poetry collections, nonfiction, and novels. Written in a style described as spare, lyrical, and honest, her work has won every major award in the field of children’s literature. A Fine White Dust was named a Newbery Honor Book in 1987. Appalachia: The Voices of Sleeping Birds won the 1991 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for nonfiction. Missing May was awarded the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for children’s fiction in 1992 and the John Newbery Medal in 1993.
This Article was written by Anna Egan Smucker
Last Revised on October 26, 2010
Something About the Author vol. 76. Detroit: Gale Research, 1994.