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.

The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten

‘A compassionate, funny, heartwarming story about a band of misfit teens. It’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest for the YA set’ – Susin Nielson

unlikely

This book came to my attention as a recent recipient of the 2013 Governor General Literacy Award for Children’s Text. This award winning title beautifully captures life for those living with OCD.  Through OCD group therapy, readers learn the many aspects and triggers of OCD.  Their therapist, Chuck encourages them to choose superheroes as alter-egos, and they are referred to by their chosen name the remainder of the book.  There are a few touches of comic book Wham! Pow! type illustrations throughout.

The main character Adam (aka ‘Batman’) identifies his compulsions as ordering, tapping, counting, and magical thinking (threshold issues with entering certain doors).  We watch as Adam gets progressively worse as his family stress begins to take a major toll on him.   Although he falls for fellow group member, Robyn immediately, he painfully recognizes that he is affecting her recovery and breaks it off. His struggles are well documented in his homework lists instructed by Chuck.

Through his councillor Chuck and the group therapy sessions, I learned a lot about OCD.  Toten’s research to portray Adam and mental health issues is evident. Although the right med combination and dosage helps, I can’t imagine daily life for these individuals.  I can only hope that one day, Adam attains his ‘heaven’, “a quiet mind. Quiet. Shh (p.208).”

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