Cover image for The Heavenly Village
The Heavenly Village
Rylant, Cynthia.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Blue Sky Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
95 pages ; 24 cm
Undecided souls who have died while they are not quite ready to go to heaven find themselves in the halfway place known as the Heavenly Village.
Reading Level:
880 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 5.4 2.0 64036.

Reading Counts RC 3-5 5.9 4 Quiz: 17378.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Juvenile Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Time in heaven, is nothing like it is on earth. A millennium can pass in the blink of an eye. But not all people who go to Heaven are ready to give up their earthly understanding of time, or their routines, or the dear ones they have left behind. It is for them that God has created The Heavenly Village, where they can keep half a heart in heaven and the other half on earth until they are ready to move on. Cynthia Rylant describes a cozy, quiet village and the stories of seven people passing through, painting a comforting picture of the journey into afterlife.

Author Notes

Cynthia Rylant was born on June 6, 1954 in Hopewell, Virginia. She attended and received degrees at Morris Harvey College, Marshall University, and Kent State University.

Rylant worked as an English professor and at the children's department of a public library, where she first discovered her love of children's literature.

She has written more than 100 children's books in English and Spanish, including works of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Her novel Missing May won the 1993 Newbery Medal and A Fine White Dust was a 1987 Newbery Honor book. Rylant wrote A Kindness, Soda Jerk, and A Couple of Kooks and Other Stories, which were named as Best Book for Young Adults. When I was Young in the Mountains and The Relatives Came won the Caldecott Award.

She has many popular picture books series, including Henry and Mudge, Mr. Putter and Tabby and High-Rise Private Eyes. (Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 4^-7. This is a special book, probably not for everyone, but Rylant's graceful offering will move many young readers. When most people die, Rylant says, they go to a place of Perfect Happiness called Heaven, but there are some people who are not sure or not ready. They look back rather than ahead, so God sends them to Heavenly Village, where they linger awhile, sometimes because they don't want to give up their hold on life, sometimes because they are too fearful to go on. In short chapters, each beginning with a biblical quote, Rylant introduces people who have elected to stay in Heavenly Village. Everett the timekeeper, who never felt much emotion in life, spends his time visiting the living, reminding them of the world's beauty; Violet Rose, unloved as a child, stays with her precious pets; and Isham, the drunk driver who killed Violet, is there, too, trying to make amends. Rylant writes with unembellished eloquence that will reach right to the hearts of her audience. Only the last chapter, in which God works with a potter to throw and shape the potter's clay, seems precious and a little contrived. Throughout, there's a purity of language that draws readers in and a simplicity of story that encourages them to think about the subjects Rylant subtly raises. --Ilene Cooper

Publisher's Weekly Review

Adopting a silky prose style, Rylant (Give Me Grace, reviewed above) imagines a stopping place between heaven and earth, a village where those who "have taken one step into heaven and hesitated" can stay and "finish their stories." Each chapter opens with a quotation from the American Standard Bible, then introduces a different inhabitant of the Heavenly Village. Only one of Rylant's villagers is there for conventional repentance and forgiveness; missed opportunities are of far greater concern to the other "reluctant spirits." Rylant's pristine language and deeply comforting vision are her strong suits: "A young man will do a terrible thing, and the whole world will hate him and call him evil. But his father and mother will look at him and say, `I love you.' People on earth forget that God is father and mother. So when [an evil-doer] dies, many people think he will go to hell. But he doesn't. He goes home." Some adults, however, may be bothered by Rylant's casual theology. One character has had a miserable childhood: "This is something God has little control over.... God could not make Violet Rose's parents loving people." Later, God "is not all that troubled" when a child and his dog die, because their suffering is over quickly. But those who don't mind spirituality delivered warm and fuzzy will find this as satisfying and sweet as a cup of cocoa; it will leave readers feeling good. Ages 10-up. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 6 Up-Heavenly Village is peopled with souls not quite ready for heaven. Rylant relates the stories of seven of the Village residents in a series of carefully crafted vignettes that seem to convey the essence of a highly personal spiritual understanding. Her selection of characters seems at least in part dictated by the theology she is constructing. Readers meet a doctor who now spends his time doing nothing but talking with his "patients" (who just know they must have died and gone to heaven if a doctor is actually listening to them). The Village Timekeeper (a bank teller on Earth) never had time for beauty. The Village baker, Violet Rose, "had a very sad childhood. This is always something God has little power over. (And because of this, He sometimes has a lot of explaining to do to the new arrival in heaven)." She was killed by a hit-and-run driver. There is a boy named Harold and his dog, Fortune. Fortune just loves to rescue people and was sent to the Village because he kept trying to rescue angels in heaven who didn't need rescuing. Harold went along because the two are inseparable. Oh, and the man who was driving the car that killed Violet Rose is in the Village also. Adult in both tone and sensibility, the book comes up short as a work of fiction for children. They might enjoy the description of Fortune's well-meant attempts to rescue angels, but there is little else to draw them in. Heartfelt and well-intentioned, this offering is ultimately unsatisfying and muddled.-Elaine Fort Weischedel, Turner Free Library, Randolph, MA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.