June 6, 1954
A Blue-Eyed Daisy
Cynthia Rylant, an award-winning author of children's and young adult books, sets many of her stories in West Virginia coal country, where she grew up.
Rylant also writes poetry. Critic Jacqueline L. Gmuca noted her conscious use of words: “Because of Rylant's lyrical use of language, we come to know why the main character never dreamed of a world beyond the mountains when she was young. There, love, adventure, and security wrapped her close. Characters are just as strongly evoked by Rylant's use of dialect and figurative language.”
Gmuca added, “Distinctive to Rylant's work are her depictions of adult characters. Ellie's father is prominent in A Blue-Eyed Daisy. Like other coal miners, Oakey Farley used to drink, 'to scare away the coming week,' but with his accident in a slate fall and his inability to work, he begins to drink through the week as well. The novel traces Oakey's healing process, furthered by Ellie's love and Bullet, the hunting beagle he brings home one day.”
Cynthia Rylant Smith's father was an army sergeant and her mother was a nurse. Her parents separated when she was four, and she and her mother moved in with her grandparents in West Virginia. She had little contact with her father, and he died when she was thirteen. In 1975, she received a bachelor's degree from Morris Harvey College, now the University of Charleston. She received graduate degrees from Marshall University and Kent State University. She is divorced and has a son.
Rylant has worked as an English instructor and children's librarian and continues to lecture part-time. Her first book, of poetry, was Waiting to Waltz: A Childhood.