‘Rain Reign’ by Ann M. Martin: Touching middle grade tale about a girl and a dog

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Rating: 5 stars

With “RAIN REIGN,” Ann M. Martin cements her status as an author who writes fabulous stories about people and animals alike. In “RAIN REIGN” Martin brings to life the powerful connection between dogs and children, and how having a dog can make a huge difference in the life of a child.

Rose Howard is a girl who is on the autism spectrum. She is high functioning, but suffers from an overload of stimuli and a compulsive need for order and rules. This causes her to be ridiculed at school, and at home her life is no better.

Rose’s father is a gruff man, and he is unable to show her any love. There are several references to how he wants to raise her and not make the same mistakes that his father made. Young readers may not make the connection between his cryptic words and abuse, but they will recognize that he does not have the patience to deal with Rose as a loving father might.

Rose’s life changes when her father brings home a dog he found. She names the dog Rain because it’s a homonym and she compulsively thinks about homonyms throughout the day every day. It’s because of Rain that Rose is able to breach the divide between herself and some of the other students. They see her as more approachable with her dog.

When Rose’s father lets Rain out after a hurricane and Rain disappears, Rose is bereft. She cannot understand why her father didn’t put Rain’s collar on before letting her out. She is determined to find her lost dog and figures out an organized way to do it. She and her uncle visit and call all the surrounding shelters to see if Rain is there.

The ending is one that will bring tears to the eyes of any reader with a heart. Rose is a character worthy of study. She is fiercely loyal, with a strong sense of right and wrong. She understands how she is different from others and tries to overcome that so she can make friends. Rose embodies determination in many ways, from her determination to make friends to her determination to find her beloved dog.

This book is a must-read for classrooms. While kids will enjoy it on their own, reading it in the classroom setting — perhaps as a read aloud — will enable the teacher to lead discussions about why some kids are different from others. Discussions of feelings and how we are all alike in important ways are essential for children approaching adolescence. Rose explains what it feels like to be autistic in a simple-to-understand way.

Note that Canine Companions for Independence raises service dogs and pairs them with children who are on the autism spectrum because of that bond and the way that dogs can help autistic children.

For a middle grade book study, this would be a perfect companion to “Out of My Mind” by Sharon Draper and “Wonder” by R.J. Palacios.

Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by the publisher, Feiwel and Friends Books for Young Readers, for review purposes.