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Video:Profile of Cynthia Rylant

with Anita Silvey

Learn more about the life and work of famed children's book author, Cynthia Rylant.See Transcript

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Transcript:Profile of Cynthia Rylant

I’m Anita Silvey, author of Everything I Need to Know I Learned from A Children’s Book and The Children’s Book a Day Almanac online. And I’m here for About.com. Let’s talk about the work and life of Cynthia Rylant.

A Life Without Books

Cynthia Rylant has a fascinating background for a children’s writer. We don’t have many who came from the place or the background that she comes from. She grew up in Appalachia. And, she grew up in a family without children’s books. She was never exposed to children’s books. She never read them.

Cynthia Rylant's Books

And, it was only when she was an adult and she was supporting herself part time in a library and she started to read this literature and she thought, oh my goodness. You know. What I’ve missed. But also, as she looked at the literature she realized that the children she grew up with were not reflected in books for children. And so she began to write, and her first book was called When I Was Young and in the Mountains. She wrote a wonderful book called, When the Relatives Came, about Appalachian families exchanging times in the summer where they come together.

Because it was her background, because it is one of the things we say to writers, write what you know that really gave her a great strength. It gave her a new voice. She has a beautiful style. She's a beautiful writer. She's also very religious, a Christian writer. Sometimes, and again, that's not a voice that we reflect as much in the literature as we might. You know, she believes in angels.

Writing Books About Pets

Certainly, her most popular books were sort of based on her son and dog. It was a story about Henry and Mudge a big sloppy lumbering dog. And Henry’s experiences with him. I suppose her most popular book outside of the children’s book world is called Dog Heaven and it is literally about what happens to our beloved pets after they go. She imagines when dogs go to heaven they don’t need wings because god knows that dogs love running best and it just goes on. Dogs in dog heaven may stay as long as they like and this can be forever. They will be there when old friends show up. They will be there at the door and you see an old person coming by, angel dogs.

So, all of her books have that gentleness to it. That kindness. She's done picture books, novels, is readers, she has an incredible range. Poetry. Beautiful volumes of poetry. Someone who has her own style and her own voice.

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