Apparently September is National Preparedness Month. Go figure! I just recently read a book taking place during a hurricane, so I thought I’d share it (even though the week focusing on Hurricanes was last week… shh!).

Rain ReignTitle: Rain Reign
Author: Ann M. Martin
ISBN: 9780312643003
Pages: 226 pages
Publisher/Date: Feiwel and Friends, an imprint of Macmillan, c2014.

”Now I will tell you something troubling about fifth grade. It isn’t as troubling as what happens later in the story when my father lets Rain outside during a hurricane, but it is still troubling. For the first time in my life I’m being sent home with weekly progress reports that I have to give to my father. The reports are written by Mrs. Leibler and read and signed by Mrs. Kushel, which is my teachers’ way of saying that they’re in agreement about my behavior. The reports list all of my notable behaviors for Monday through Friday. Some of the comments are nice, such as the ones about when I participate appropriately in a classroom discussion. But most of the comments make my father slam the reports onto the table and say, “Rose, for god’s sake, keep your mouth closed when you think of a homonym,” or, “Do you see any of the other kids clapping their hands over their ears and screaming when they hear the fire alarm?” (7-8)

Twelve-year-old Rose Howard has several conversation starters to help her communicate without mentioning her special fascination with homonyms, including “My official diagnosis is high-functioning autism, which some people call Asperger’s syndrome. Do you have a diagnosis?” With the assistance of a school aid she survives the school day, but she finds real joy when she is picked up from school by her Uncle Weldon and spends her afternoons with her dog Rain. Against all assurances from her frustrated father, Hurricane Susan hits with unexpected force. When her father lets Rain outside and she doesn’t come back, Rose is intent on finding her, leading a methodical but ultimately heartbreaking search.

Readers will have to get used to the presence of homonyms, as when a word is used in the narration Martin frequently provides the other one (won) or two (to, too) accompanying homonyms. It does accentuate this specific quirk, and allows for insight into how Rose’s mind works, but it also could prove frustratingly repetitive to some readers. Surprisingly, even though Rose makes an effort to distinguish between homonyms and homophones on the very first page, there’s no mention of homographs and she herself uses the word homonym throughout the book, which seems incongruous with her adherence to rules and accuracy regarding what more specifically are homophones. Possibly the first time I’ve seen a full-time classroom aid in a work of children’s fiction, this portrayal along with the insight in school policy and procedures cast a new light on individuals who may require an individualized learning plan. It also succinctly displays the days preceding, during and the aftermath of a large natural disaster, with displaced people and pets, flooding, power outages, supply shortages, and many more details that most people don’t consider.

It’s difficult not to admire and appreciate Rose’s earnestness. She knows what is right and wrong, and even when it has a negative impact on her, she uses those rules to understand the world. I am so happy that she had Uncle Weldon to turn to and who understood her. While the overall mood of the ending is questionable, I think it was the right ending for this sensitive story, and I think readers might walk away with a new point of few.

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