Cynthia Rylant

Born: 1954

Ohio connection: Resident


It took Cynthia Rylant only one hour to write her first book, When I Was Young in the Mountains (1982), a collection of vignettes describing the years she spent with her grandparents in Appalachia. Born in Hopewell, Virginia, in 1954, Rylant spent her first four years in Illinois. When she was four, her parents separated and Rylant and her mother moved to Coal Ridge, West Virginia. Rylant lived with her mother’s parents while her mother attended nursing school. Although she lived without electricity or indoor plumbing, her grandparents and extended family provided a loving, nurturing environment that she recalled for her first book. Intending to be a nurse like her mother, Rylant switched her major to English after taking her first literature class in college. She continued on to get her master’s degree and began working in the children’s room at the public library in Huntington, West Virginia. As she read the books she was supposed to be shelving, Rylant knew that she wanted to write children’s books. Relocating to Kent, Ohio, she received a library science degree from Kent State University in 1982 and worked at the Akron Public Library as a children’s librarian and at the University of Akron as a part-time English teacher. Rylant’s books comprise picture books, beginning readers, young adult novels, nonfiction, and poetry – several of which she has illustrated herself and many that have won awards, including the Newbery Award for Missing May (1992).

American Book Award nomination, and American Library Association (ALA) Notable Book designation, both 1983, and English- speaking Union Book-across-the-Sea Ambassador of Honor Award, 1984, all for When I Was Young in the Mountains; National Council for Social Studies Best Book designation, and ALA Notable Book designation, both 1984, and Society of Midland Authors Best Children’s Book designation, 1985, all for Waiting to Waltz: A Childhood; Children’s Book of the Year designation, Child Study Association of America (CSA), 1985, for The Relatives Came; Children’s Book of the Year designation, CSA, 1985, for A Blue-eyed Daisy; Parents’ Choice Award, 1986, and Newbery Medal Honor Book designation, 1987, both for A Fine White Dust; ALA Best Book for Young Adults citation, 1988, for A Kindness; Ohioana Award, 1990, for But I’ll Be Back Again; ALA Best Book for Young Adults citation, 1990, for A Couple of Kooks and Other Stories about Love; Parents’ Choice Award (picture book) and Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor Book for Nonfiction designation, both 1991, and Ohioana Award, 1992, all for Appalachia; Boston Globe/Horn Book Award for Children’s Fiction, Reading Magic Award, and Parents’ Choice Award, all 1992, and John Newbery Medal and Hungry Mind Review Award, both 1993, all for Missing May; Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor Book designation, 2004, for God Went to Beauty School. Several of Rylant’s “Henry and Mudge” books received child- selected awards, including Garden State Children’s Book Award, Children’s Services Section of the New Jersey Library Association, and Children’s Choice Award, Association of Booksellers for Children. In 1983, When I Was Young in the Mountains was named a Caldecott Honor Book for its illustrations by Diane Goode. The Relatives Came was named a New York Times best illustrated book, 1985, and a Caldecott Medal honor book, 1986, for illustrations by Stephen Gammell.