Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin

rain

I (eye) adored this contemporary middle grade read about a girl with high functioning autism and her dog, Rain (Reign). Rose is in fifth grade, and obsessed with homonyms (words that are pronounced the same but are spelled differently), rules and numbers (especially prime ones).   Told from Rose’s point of view, readers learn the struggles of living with OCD and Aspergers in school and at home.  While Rose’s dad may want to do well, he lacks patience and understanding for raising a special needs daughter. So when Rose’s dad brings home a stray dog as a present, Rose is overjoyed and forms a special bond with the dog (Rain) immediately.  When Rain goes missing after a storm, her kind uncle Weldon helps in the search. Eventually Rain is found, but a search for Rain’s original owners must now begin.

It’s the relationships in this book that really tug at your heart. I wished that Rose’s grief stricken father would get some professional help, and to try to understand his daughter instead of spending his time at the bar. Luckily, Rose has a kind and thoughtful uncle and Rain to make life more bearable.  As a huge animal lover, I totally understand the special bond between a dog and child.  I know how difficult it would have been to be brave and ‘do the right thing’ by giving back Rain to her rightful owners.  Rose is one special fifth grader for sure. Her voice is authentic, and it is obvious Martin did quite a bit of research to pull it off flawlessly. The frustrations and reactions to Rose’s behaviour and outbursts can help children understand what life is like for someone with Autism. This in turn, may help readers stand up to bullying, and be more accepting of differences.

Overall, Rain Reign is a beautiful tale of love, loss, and hope.  The ending was perfect, with readers optimistic about Rose’s future.  As a total standout for the year, I would recommend this book to readers of all ages.

Review: The Encyclopedia of Me by Karen Rivers

From Goodreads: Tink Aaron-Martin has been grounded AGAIN after an adventure with her best friend Freddie Blue Anderson. To make the time pass, she decides to write an encyclopedia of her life from “Aa” (a kind of lava–okay, she cribbed that from the real encyclopedia) to “Zoo” (she’s never been to one, but her brothers belong there).

As the alphabet unfolds, so does the story of Tink’s summer: more adventures with Freddie Blue (and more experiences in being grounded); how her family was featured in a magazine about “Living with Autism,” thanks to her older brother Seb–and what happened after Seb fell apart; her growing friendship, and maybe more, with Kai, a skateboarder who made her swoon (sort of). And her own sense that maybe she belongs not under “H” for “Hideous,” or “I” for “Invisible,” but “O” for “Okay.”

Scholastic sent me some new fall releases and I immediately gravitated towards this middle school junior fiction novel about a witty pre-teen girl, Isadora. Like many girls her age, her life revolves around family, friends, and obsessing about first crushes. I remember being that age and going through similar experiences- especially feeling the confusion and hurt over the demise of a friendship.

Written in encyclopedia format, I found that sometimes the random entries (like ‘Stephen King’ or ‘Mesopotamia’) disrupted the storyline. They definitely acted as filler, as only a couple of the entries like ‘Mega Mall’ were much longer in comparison. These longer entries were used to help move along the plot and storyline. There was also use of photos (hairless cat, paella, etc.) and footnotes throughout Tink’s encyclopedia to allow for her random (yet hilarious) thoughts.

Although sometimes fluffy, the book also includes deeper issues like: being bi-racial, bullying, autism, and social pressures. I think Rivers did a great job at ensuring that Tink acted age-appropriate when dealing with those issues.  From the beginning to the end, Tink’s character grew and matured.  I was rooting for her the entire book, so her transformation was truly satisfying to read.

Pick up this touching and hilarious book September 2012. If you don’t take my word for it, Meg Cabot endorses the book too, declaring: ‘What every girl will be reading this year!’

PS-For all those still wondering what ‘quince’ is… it’s an Asian fruit tree.

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