Because I spend a lot of time driving, I decided that time would be best spent listening to audiobooks! I’m giving Audible a shot because it seems to have a great selection of books, especially new releases for children’s books, and the first month is free! When I signed up, I already knew exactly which book I wanted to read: “Rain Reign” by Ann M. Martin.
I had been hearing a lot about this book from the Twitter community, and many of the people on my Goodreads group mentioned that they thought it deserving of a Newbery award/honor. Without knowing what it was really about, I decided to trust my fellow book nerds and give it a listen.
One thing you should know before reading or listening to this book: if you don’t want to be seen crying in public, then only read this book at home. My eyes were so filled with tears while listening to the finale that it made it hard to drive. I’m sure other motorists were wondering what had happened to make to make me sob behind the wheel!
You may initially think, as I did, that “Rain Reign” is simply about a girl dealing with Asperger’s syndrome. But, also like me, you would be wrong. Rose is a fifth grader who lives with her father because her mom left when she was very young. Like many with Asperger’s syndrome, Rose has fixations. Specifically, she obsesses over homonyms, rules, and prime numbers (in that order). These three things also enrage her father and get her in trouble at school.
“That’s one of the many things I like about homonyms. Most of them seem unrelated, some seem to be opposites, like soared and sword, but a few make lovely connections if you’re open to changing your perspective when you think about them.” -Rose Howard
Rose’s father spends most of his time either at work or at the local bar. Upon returning home from an evening of drinking, Rose is surprised to see her father bringing a dog into the house. He tells her that she is now the owner of this small, golden haired dog. When deciding on a name, she automatically chooses one with a homonym: Rain.
Rose and Rain become inseparable friends. Rose adjusts her strict schedule to include walking and feeding her new pal. When her Uncle Weldon brings her to school, sometimes Rain even rides along. Uncle Weldon seems to be the only person who understands Rose, and he demonstrates unlimited patience toward her. In fact, he’s one of the only people who helps her brainstorm new homonyms for her list.
Not only is Rain a good friend, but she ends up being the catalyst that helps Rose connect with her classmates. While sitting at her desk, waiting for the school day to begin, Rose sees that Rain has run into the classroom! Uncle Weldon comes in shortly after, apologizing for letting the pup escape. Everyone from class swarms around Rain, petting her and asking Rose questions. They’ve fallen in love with Rain, just like Rose did. Thanks to Rain, Rose’s peers have something to talk to her about that doesn’t involve homonyms.
The first heartbreak you will experience in the story happens following a hurricane. Rose’s father lets Rain outside to use the bathroom, but instead of waiting to let her back in, he goes back to sleep. Rose panics when she wakes and realizes what has happened. When she tries to ask her father why he would let Rain out without a collar, he rages at her, and Rose can’t understand why.
With no help from her father, Rose devises a plan to find and rescue Rain. She makes a list of animal shelters in the area, then calls each one asking about her missing dog. Eventually she finds a shelter with a dog matching Rain’s description, and Uncle Weldon agrees to take her there the next day.
Everyone watching the reunion of Rose and Rain cry tears of joy and relief. Everyone except Rose. But the happy moment is tainted by some unsettling news. Rain has a microchip, and her real name is Olivia. As Rose processes this information, she realizes that Rain’s original owners, the Hendersons, are probably missing their dog as much as she was. Because the shelter hasn’t been able to locate the Hendersons, they agree to release Rain with the stipulation that they will continue to try to locate the original owners.
Though she may not experience emotions in the same way as other people, Rose still knows the difference between right and wrong. She decides that the right thing to do is to find the Hendersons herself, and reunite Rain with her former family. Rose’s teacher enlists the help of a local newspaper to write an article explaining Rose’s mission. She hopes that the newspaper will find its way to the Hendersons.
When Rose’s father sees the article, he unleashes a violent fury that Rose has never seen before. Here, dear readers, is heartbreak number two. It may cause you to cry or to feel nauseous, but I believe Ann M. Martin has done her best to convey the feelings of the situation without unnecessary details. Her father lashes out at Rain, striking her on the back. Rose does her best to protect her friend by taking shelter under the kitchen table. Out of breath from the attack, her father turns to leave. But before he does, he threatens Rose never to tell what happened.
Rose is now even more convinced that Rain needs to be returned to the Hendersons. Though it’s bittersweet, she gets her wish. Again, Uncle Weldon drives Rose back to the animal shelter where the Hendersons are waiting to see the dog they’ve been missing for over a year. Though Rose describes the event in her matter-of-fact manner, readers will visualize the scene and feel the implied anguish and joy of the characters involved. Rose stands watching as Rain gets in the car and leaves with her new-old family.
“There is an ache inside of me, a pain. Is this what bravery feels like? Or loneliness? Maybe this is an ache of sadness.” -Rose Howard
Just when we think Rose has suffered enough, her father bursts into her room in the middle of the night and tells her she’s being taken to her uncle’s. Rose scrambles to collect a few pieces of clothing into a bag and follows her father to the truck. There are no long hugs or heartfelt words shared between father and daughter. The moment passes by unceremoniously, and once Rose is out of the truck, her father drives away and out of her life.
Getting to know Rose through the first person point of view makes it hard for us to say goodbye to her at the end. Readers share very personal moments with Rose, and it’s hard not to become attached. It’s easy to fall in love with a girl who’s so honest, thoughtful, and sometimes vulnerable. Though this story might not have the happily ever after you’re looking for, it does bring us a sense of relief and comfort.
“Our (hour) hearts were one (won).” -Rose Howard
Whew, I’m fighting tears again! For some reason, I can handle bad things happening to people, but when animals are involved, I turn to mush. Like some of my other recent reads (“Fish in a Tree“, “The War that Saved My Life,” and “One for the Murphys“) “Rain Reign” is great for promoting empathy, even if it’s not the primary focus of the story. I expect that even if readers can’t find a single thing in the book to identify with (which they will), that they’ll still be enraptured by the powerful story of a girl and her dog.
Title: “Rain Reign”
Author: Ann M. Martin (Follow her on Twitter: @AuthorAnnMartin)
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Publish Date: October 7, 2014
My recommended age range: 4th-6th