Bob Seeney on Books

Rain, Reign by Ann M. Martin

March, 2015

Rain, ReignAnn Martin’s Rain, Reign (2014, Felwell & Friends) is a most remarkable book narrated by protagonist Rose Howard. She informs us early on that she has been diagnosed with “high-functioning autism, which some people call Asperger’s syndrome.”

In Rose’s life there are five important things: homonyms, rules, routines, prime numbers, and her dog. The dog was a stray her father found during a storm, thus his name, Rain. He was purposefully named because rain is a three homonyms word: rain, reign, and rein. In Rose’s mind, that’s very special. Rose’s own name, she informs us, is also a homonym: rose and rows. She tells us “To be accurate, it [her name] has a homophone, which is a word that’s pronounced the same as another word, but spelled differently.”

Rose continues to tell us about her life and about the things that make her different — a difference not understood by her classmates, her teachers, and her father. The two bright things in her life are Rain and her Uncle Weldon, her father’s younger brother, who understands Rose and her needs. 

Rose’s strict adherence to rules eventually creates an ethical dilemma involving her beloved friend and companion, Rain. When a severe storm hits her rural town, Rain goes missing. Rose must find her dog, even if it means breaking routines and leaving her safe places. The result is unexpected. As an Amazon book review states, “Hearts will break and spirits will soar for this powerful story, brilliantly told from Rose’s point of view.”

The Kirkus Review is just as strong: “Martin has penned a riveting, seamless narrative in which each word sings and each scene counts. There is no fluff here, just sophisticated, emotionally honest storytelling.”  I cannot agree more! 

An ongoing concern of mine is building and nurturing empathy in our students. I think that understanding — knowledge of another’s situation — is the basic foundation of empathy. Rain, Reign serves as a remarkable double-edged tool to help readers in growing their capacity to empathize. First, the book helps students come to understand the plight and scope of autism. Then, because Rose recognizes her need to become more empathetic herself — which is most difficult for her and others with autism — she leads us through her own efforts to show empathy, sometimes with humor.

While exploring the concept of empathy is beyond the scope of this review, it’s important to know that authorities in the field of gifted education address this issue. In 1992, Linda Silverman defined empathy as “…a depth of feeling that results in a sense of identification with others” (p. 38). She went on to say “Accurate empathy is the ability to enter another’s world, to feel as he feels. When one has ‘walked a mile in another’s shoes,’ she gains great respect for the person’s inner conflicts” (p. 94).

Ann Martin’s Rain, Reign provides a wonderful opportunity for us and for our students to walk in Rose’s shoes and thus build understanding and empathy, not only for autistic individuals but for all 2e learners. This novel has been added to my list of books that I think every teacher should read. It grabbed my heart and mind, and I really can’t recommend this most remarkable book highly enough.

Reference

Silverman, L. (1992). Counseling the gifted and talented. Austin, TX: Love Publishing Company.

Awards “Raining Down” on Martin’s Book

When the awards received by this book are listed, we have a veritable roll call of the most prestigious awards that children’s literature can receive. Ann M. Martin’s book Rain, Reign is the recipient of:

  • Charlotte Huck Award for 2015
  • American Library Association (ALA) Schneider Family Book Award for 2015, awarded to books that provide an artistic expression of the disability experience
  • ALA Josette Frank Award for 2015, which “honors a book or books of outstanding literary merit in which children or young people deal in a positive and realistic way with difficulties in their world and grow emotionally and morally.”

In addition, the Association for Library Service to Children not only named Rain, Reign a 2015 Notable Book, but also named it a 2015 Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People. On top of that, Martin herself is an award winner, having received the 2004 Newbery Honor for A Corner of the Universe.

Her current amazing novel has been selected to represent New York State at the 2015 National Book Festival, at which each state selects one book about the state or by an author from the state that is a good read for children or young adults. But the list does not end here!  Rain, Reign has been named by the Kirkus Review to its prestigious list of Best Middle-Grades Books of 2014 That Celebrate Diversity. These are the awards that I located and there may or probably will be more.
BS

Bob Seney

Professor Emeritus Bob Seney is retired from teaching in the Masters of Gifted Studies Program at Mississippi University for Women. At conferences, he often presents a session titled “What’s New in Young Adult Literature.” Reach him at bseney@muw.edu.

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