Friday, December 02, 2016

Rain Reign

Rain Reign
by Ann M. Martin

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (October 7, 2014)

From the best-selling author of Baby-sitters Club series comes this brilliant story of Rose Howard, a story that will not be easy to forget.

Rose Howard is a fifth grader at Hartford Elementary, and likes these three things in this order:
1. Words (especially homonyms)
2. Rules
3. Numbers (especially prime numbers)

She reveres Rules. And doesn't like it when people don't follow the rules. It disturbs her immensely when people go against the rules.

"Stop!" I shouted. "Mrs. Ringwood, stop right now!"

Mrs. Ringwood slammed on the brakes. "What's the matter?" she cried. She stood up to look out her window. Behind me, all the kids crowded to the other windows to see what had happened. Traffic came to a halt.

"You didn't use your directional," I said. "That's against the rules."

Mrs. Ringwood sat down again. She leaned her forehead on the steerign wheel. Then she turned around and said to me, "Are you freaking kidding me?" After she parked Bus #7 she went into Hartford Elementary and spoke with the principal.

That's why I don't ride the bus anymore.

Rose's mom is no more (of course, her dad in misplaced concern, tells Rose that her mom left); Rose lives with her dad, Wesley Howard, who works in a nearby garage as a mechanic; her uncle Wheldon Howard drives her to school and back everyday despite his full day work schedule elsewhere in a slightly better white-collar job.

Rose is obsessed with homonyms (homophones, mainly). She makes a list of them in alphabetical order. It is a hand-written list as she has no computer. So, when she finds a new homonym pair (or trio, on rare occasions), she might have to start over and copy her earlier list and insert the new one at the right spot. She doesn't mind. In fact, she enjoys writing this list.

One fine rainy day, her dad brings home a beautiful and friendly dog. He means it as a gift for Rose, even though he just found it on the road and didn't try to track its owners or make any attempt to determine if it is abandoned for good. Rose names her dog Rain/Reign - homonym.

And then comes the hurricane, Hurricane Susan, a devastating downpour that destroys homes, downs power lines, floods the streams and rivers, and leaves people stranded. And, this is the time when Rain goes missing as well. Rose is heart-broken and angry at her father for letting Rain out without a collar in such a terrible weather.

All's well that ends well, but with a twist. When Rose finally takes charge and calls all the nearby animal shelters methodically and manages to find Rain, she also learns that Rain is actually Olivia and belongs to another family with two kids who miss their dog very much, but the family has not been easy to reach. So, Rose sets about finding a way to reach the family through newspaper articles and eventually unites Olivia/Rain/Reign with her original family, the Hendersons.

Rose's dad and uncle are products of foster care system themselves; Rose's dad has never accepted Rose's needs, and has always resented her obsession with homonyms and prime numbers and rules, symptomatic of high-functioning autism. "Don't start with me, Rose..." is all he has to say to shut Rose up. He doesn't seem to know what's best for Rose or how to help her special needs. Thankfully for Rose, Uncle Wheldon does.

And, when the story ends, instead of being abandoned to the foster care system as her dad had had enough with her, we leave Rose with her caring and warm Uncle Wheldon who is her only living relative, and only friend who understands her and supports her needs.

A powerful and unforgettable novel, told in Rose's matter-of-fact voice, laced with humor, that just barely manages to stop our heart from breaking.

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