by Ann M. Martin
Feiwel and Friends
Category: Middle Grade Novel
I woke up early this morning and lingered in bed a little while to finish Rain Reign, and then immediately sat down to type this review because I am not ready to say goodbye to Rose Howard. Not yet.
Ann M. Martin, the author of the most beloved series of my own childhood, The Babysitters Club, has outdone herself with this book that is at once heartwarming and heartbreaking. The novel centers around the world of Rose Howard, an eleven-year old girl with high-functioning autism. The story is told from Roses’s perspective, and her voice is so clear in the writing that you begin to believe this girl is real, and actually wrote this book. Her narrative is sprinkled with homophones in parenthesis, one (won) of her obsessions, along with prime numbers. We know immediately that Rose will be in control of this story and the particular fashion that it is told in her introduction:
I like homonyms a lot. And I like words. Rules and numbers too. Here is the order in which I like these things:
1. Words (especially homonyms)
3. Numbers (especially prime numbers)
Rose introduces us to all of the adults in her life, her father whose own upbringing in and out of foster care deeply impacted his ability to parent his special-needs child, her mother, whose absence is a character in and of itself, her compassionate uncle with whom she she finds ways to communicate her needs to her father, her classroom teachers and her teacher’s aid who offers her ideas for conversation starters that often go awry and even her bus driver (who will anger you, particularly because you probably have met this adult in your own life). But for Rose, this story is about her dog Rain (Reign) and the story of how she lost him and what she found in her search to bring him home.
I don’t know many people whose lives are not touched by someone on the autism spectrum. This book is a beautiful reminder of far we have come in our understanding and acceptance of people on the spectrum and at moments an indictment of the work we still have to do. This book reminded me of the patience I’ve seen demonstrated in schools to the intelligent little boy who who manages to bring all conversations back around to computers, or to the teenage girl who asks a large number of clarifying questions before beginning an assignment (and completing it with exact precision). Because it is told from Rose’s perspective, this book offers an illuminating peek into the mind of someone with a high-functioning autism or Asperger’s diagnosis. I would highly recommend this book to any older-elementary child, but moreover, I’d recommend it to any adult who works with or cares for children in any capacity.
I checked this book out from my local library, but I will be ordering my own copy today, along with a box of tissues. I would recommend that you do the same.