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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that readers may know Rain Reign author Ann M. Martin from her Baby-Sitters Club series. This is a sweet coming-of-age story of a high-functioning autistic fifth-grade girl named Rose. Rose loses her dog in a hurricane that washes away some of her town, causing stress and sadness in her fifth-grade class, but no deaths. Rose's father drinks daily, smokes, hits Rose's dog once in a rage, and mourns the absence of his wife, telling Rose she left when Rose was 2. Kids will learn much about homonyms from Rose, who adores them, while they marvel at her ingenuity in her search for her lost dog and her sacrifice when she decides that doing what's right is more important than her happiness. Though the autism spectrum is broad and every autistic person is different, readers may still begin to understand and appreciate their autistic classmates a little more as they get to know Rose. Rain Reign won the American Library Association's 2015 Schneider Family Book Award for books that embody an artistic expression of the disability experience.
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What's the story?
Rose is an autistic fifth grader who loves homonyms, rules, and prime numbers, in that order. She explains to the reader that she's going to tell her story and immediately introduces her dog Rain (whose name has two homonyms). Rose and Rain live with Rose's dad in Hatford, New York. Dad spends a lot of time working as a mechanic and drinking at the bar next door. Rose and Rain are alone a lot, but Uncle Weldon drives Rose to school and helps her with her ever-growing list of homonyms. When Rain goes missing after a hurricane, Rose is devastated but determined to find him.
Is it any good?
Parents of autistic children are always looking for more positive and true depictions of kids on the spectrum, and this one fits the bill quite well. Parent memoirs are plentiful enough (and awfully heavy for the most part), but what do we read with our kids and their neurotypical siblings and peers that's at their reading level? Books such as RAIN REIGN are not that easy to find. And the spectrum is so broad there's no capturing the group as a whole. But Ann M. Martin's Rose does get to the heart of life as a high-functioning autistic child. Rose's intense interest in homonyms and black-and-white rule-bound thinking are right on. And yes, parents, your kid will start their own homonym lists after reading this. You've been warned.
Making Rose's father a slightly more sympathetic character would have added more depth to the story. Neither Rose nor readers ever get close enough to him. Rose's touching relationship with her Uncle Weldon does much to make up for this. So does Rose's selfless act near the end of Rain Reign. Rose's father may not understand her decision, but readers will. It's a lovely moment that gives Rose and all the wonderful autistic children like her the admiration and empathy they so deserve.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what they know and don't know about autism. What did they learn from Rain Reign? What do they learn from their peers at school?
For kids on the autism spectrum, do you relate to how Rose sees the world? Do you have strong interests in things that you like to share? Do you think your neurotypical peers understand you the way you'd like them to?
How did Rose go about looking for her dog? Would you have been that thorough? Would you have been able to make the sacrifice she does in the end?
- Author: Ann M. Martin
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Cats, Dogs, and Mice, Great Girl Role Models, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
- Publication date: October 7, 2014
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 9 - 12
- Number of pages: 240
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Award: ALA Best and Notable Books
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