Friday, November 21, 2014
Rain Reign, by Ann M. Martin. Feiwel and Friends, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2014. $19.50 ages 9 and up
24 rolls of toilet paper
2 large packages of napkins
4 packages of paper plates
2 packages of paper cups
I look at our food. I wonder if we have enough supplies for a power outage that lasts two days, four days, a week.
I wonder what will happen if a tree falls on our house."
There is so much to love about Rose. She has some very special loves herself: she loves homonyms, her dog Rain, prime numbers, rules, her Uncle Weldon. But, her life is also fraught with difficulties, not the least of which is her father.
Her father works during the day, and spends his evenings drinking at a nearby bar. One night, he finds a dog alone in the rain and brings him home. He gives the dog to his daughter and allows Rose to choose a name. Rain (found in the rain) keeps Rose company when she is alone. Rose collects homonyms daily, and adds them to her continually changing list. If she runs out of space on the alphabetical list, she starts the list all over again, in order to include the new set of words. When Rain's father loses patience with her, as he often does, she turns to Rain for comfort, and to her Uncle Weldon who takes her to and from school each day, helps her gather homonyms, and calms her when her father frightens her.
A coming storm is disconcerting for Rose as the weather forecasters are predicting big problems. She and her father prepare as best they can. They cannot prepare for Rain's disappearance, and Rose is very upset with her father's actions. He is the one who let Rain out during the storm, and didn't think to let he back in. Now, Rain is gone and they have no way of looking for her because they are stranded in their yard by swirling, high waters.
"The power is out everywhere. Millions of people are in the dark. Millions. It could take weeks to restore it. And your school won't open until the power is back.
But I need my routine.
Most of all I need Rain."
Without her father's help, Rose thinks up a plan for finding Rain. She makes a list of all the animal shelters that are close by, and phones them to see if they have seen her dog. Rain is not at any of them. Uncle Weldon helps when they can finally get off their property. Eventually, using Rose's well-devised plan, they do find Rain. There, they make a heartbreaking discovery. The news leads Rose to take matters into her own hands, and do what a girl consumed by rules knows is the right thing.
What a voice Ms. Martin has created for the forever memorable Rose! She speaks clearly and honestly about her day-to-day life, its challenges and its joys. Her writing is full of wit, angst and understanding. Despite Rose's preoccupations, she shows awareness and integrity when dealing the one momentous decision she feels compelled to make.
It is a powerful portrayal of a young autistic girl, told skillfully and with great heart. I think we would do well to share it in any middle years classroom setting. It is sure to spark conversation and encourage empathy for this character whose presence is so strongly felt, and whose personality is presented with such care and understanding:
"I think about the homonyms soared and sword. They're an interesting pair, because soared is a very nice word, especially when you imagine musical notes swooshing through the evening air, but sword indicates weaponry, so that isn't a nice word at all. That's one of the many things I like about homonyms. Most of them seem unrelated, some seem to be opposites, like soared and sword, but a few make lovely connections if you're open to changing your perspective when you think about them."
Emotional and honest, this book is about autism, yes. It is also about family, love, and hope. It is a book that deserves to be on the Newbery list for 2014. Don't miss it!