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Right as Rain

Book review by
Joly Herman, Common Sense Media
Right as Rain Book Poster Image
Pitch-perfect story about loss and change inspires hope.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Rain and her family move to a Spanish-speaking neighborhood, and lots of Spanish phrases are integrated in the story. Poetry and its construction are explored from the different forms (haiku, rhyme patterns) to the performance of a poem. 

Positive Messages

Helping people can make you feel great. Being part of a team can forge friendships. A team can be like a family. Despite painful times, growth can happen. Following your interests and being true to yourself can lead you to happiness. It takes all kinds of backgrounds and abilities to make a colorful life. Change is hard, but it can be OK. It feels good to be supported and not have to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Rain's teachers and coaches take the time to find out how Rain is doing. Ms. Dacie, who runs a small, inclusive community center, is a loving, consistent role model to kids who need her.

Violence

Rain can say things to hurt people when she feels hurt, and she wishes that bad things happen to boys who are bullying her friend. A sibling has died. A car accident is described in detail -- no blood, but bent metal and tragedy.

Sex
Language

Occasional strong language: "Screw you," "damn," "sucks." 

Consumerism

Converse shoes, Nike Flyknit Racers, Adidas Ultraboosts, Starbucks, Brooks Adrenaline, Time Warner Cable, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, New York Yankees, Disney World, SMART board, various books, such as The One and Only Ivan, Bridge to Terabithia, The Crossover.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Lindsey Stoddard's second book, Right as Rain, deals with loss, grief, tension between parents, moving to a new community, homelessness, and different cultures. Like the heroine in her first book, Just Like Jackie, Stoddard depicts an athletic, determined girl in middle school who's coping in her unique way with the loss of a family member. In this story, a sixth-grader named Rain moves from rural Vermont to a predominantly Spanish-speaking neighborhood in New York City. Rain's parents fight constantly, and Rain feels responsible for everything. In her New York City public middle school, she's among kids from different backgrounds and feels like she has the "wrong clothes, wrong language, wrong hair, wrong skin..." She finds a group of friends who accept her because she runs fast, but her brother's death overshadows everything she sees. A car accident is described in detail -- no blood, but bent metal and tragedy. Some kids are bullied. Infrequent strong language: "Screw you," "damn," "sucks." 

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What's the story?

In RIGHT AS RAIN, Rain Andrews is a sixth-grader who remembers that as a small child, she buried her dresses in her garden in Vermont because she hated wearing girl's clothes. She remembers the dirt in her fingernails and the sound of her parents' laughter. Then tragedy hits, and the family dynamic changes drastically in reaction to her older brother's death. As a reaction, her mom has decided a new start would be the best thing and takes a job that moves the Andrews family to the most urban of environments -- Washington Heights in New York City. Rain finds that even in dark times there are bright spots, that friendships can blossom out of pain, and that working with a team can help her do something great with her young life.

Is it any good?

Lindsey Stoddard's second novel wraps an emotional story of loss and grief in a dynamic, beautifully detailed package. Stoddard's superb ear for dialogue telegraphs family tensions so well that there's no need for description. What Rain hears her parents saying speaks volumes about their lives. The way the kids in Rain's new neighborhood talk -- or don't talk-- captures the vibrancy and quick pace of city living. Right as Rain expertly shows what it's like to survive the loss of a sibling, the shutting down, the grief and anguish, and the glimmer of hope that eventually surfaces. 

Kids will appreciate the sensorial quality of the details: from the smell of rot emanating from Rain's homeless acquaintance and the stab of empathy Rain feels for that man, down to the gooey, warm, love-filled chocolate chip cookies from Ms. Dacie's kitchen. Kids who have heard their parents argue will relate to the way Rain feels pulled between them. Rain's new-kid experience at a school where she doesn't fit in is spot on, as is the warm feeling of belonging when she finds a friend. All of these aspects of the story are so well crafted, that Rain's experience leaps off the page. Though things may not have turned out the way Rain and her parents wanted them to, they learn that love and hope can still flourish, if you take care of the weeds and then plant the seeds. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how sports can help someone cope with pain. When Rain joins the track team in Right as Rain, she immediately fits in with a group. What other movies or stories feature a kid doing a sport when life at home is challenging? How does running help Rain cope with her emotions?

  • What does a "safe space" mean to the kids who go to Ms. Dacie's place? What does a safe space mean to you? What books or shows can you think of that tackle the theme of inclusion?

  • Rain loses her brother Guthrie in an accident, but she feels like it's her fault. How does loss affect her family? What would you say to her if you were Rain's friend?

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