Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Monday, October 20, 2014

Homonyms, Rules, Numbers and One Dog

Sometimes you are so taken with what you are reading hours pass by without you even moving a single inch.  The characters' story has become intertwined with every breath you take.  When the final page is read you know this is one of those books, rich and rare, which needs to be shared.

Yesterday morning I finished such a book. As I was thinking about it during the day, this tweet appeared in my feed.

 I am certain this book will create a lifetime reader.

The First Part
Who I Am---
A Girl Named
Rose (Rows)
I am Rose Howard and my first name has a homonym.
To be accurate, it has a homophone, which is a word that's pronounced the same as another word but spelled differently.  My homophone name is Rows.

This is how Ann M. Martin, Newbery Honor winning author of A Corner of the Universe, begins her newly released title, Rain Reign (Feiwel and Friends).  Continuing in this first chapter Rose introduces us to her fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Kushel, her aide, Mrs. Leibler, her father, Wesley Howard, and her Uncle, Weldon Howard.  Rose has been diagnosed with high-functioning autism, Asperger's syndrome.  Her best friend is her dog, Rain.

Rose has a passion for collecting homonyms, following rules and using numbers to define people, places, events and help her cope with stress.  Her father works as a mechanic at the shop near their home and is a frequent patron of the local pub, The Luck of the Irish.  One evening on his way home from The Luck of the Irish, he finds a dog with no identification, giving it to Rose as a gift.  It was raining that night, so Rose named her Rain.  The two of them know Wesley Howard's moods, having learned to navigate around them with care.

Due to several misunderstandings with the bus driver, Rose needs to be driven to and picked up from Hartford Elementary School.  Her Uncle, who works for a construction company doing their computer work, has an arrangement so he can do this for Rose.  Apparent in their conversations and time spent together on the weekends is his compassion for Rose.

Even the daily occurrences in the classroom, Rose's take on the days with the adults and students, pale in comparison to what happens when Hurricane Susan moves up the eastern coast and heads inland to Hartford, New York.  During the storm toward morning, Rose's dad lets Rain outside without her wearing her collar.  Rain is missing when Rose wakes up.

The devastation left in the wake of the hurricane, the lost homes, the lack of electricity and use of phones, the flooding and destruction to vegetation (trees) and the roads, will take weeks to restore any sense of normal.  For Rose, a life without Rain seems like no life at all.  She methodically devises a plan.  With the help of Uncle Weldon good and not so good things happen.  Rose, her dad and uncle need to make some decisions; life-changing choices affecting the lives of each of them.

Having Rose tell this story in her own words, orderly with precision, is a wonderful technique employed by Ann M. Martin.  It allows readers to experience Rose's world as closely as we can giving us insights into autism.  It also explores the reactions of people to Rose as she perceives them.

 Divided into four sections, The First Part, The Part About the Hurricane, The Next Part and The Hard Part, with forty-nine succinct chapters we are able to easily connect to the rhythm of life in Hartford, New York. By including the homonyms in parentheses and the number values assigned to Rose's thought processes as well as her need for rules and routine, we have a clear image of Rose Howard in our minds.  Rose's descriptions of the characters now and her knowledge of their pasts, give us a greater understanding of their actions.  We don't like how Rose is treated but we can see how events and choices made could lead to the circumstances in which she lives.

Here are some sample passages from the book.

When Rain and I are at home alone together, we sit inside or on the front porch and Rain puts one (won) of her front feet (feat) in (inn) my lap.  I rub her toes (tows), and she gazes into my blue (blew) eyes with her eyes, which are the color of a chocolate bar.  After a while, she starts to fall asleep.  Her brown eyes squint shut until they're completely closed.  At bedtime she crawls under the covers with me.  If I wake up during the night, I find that Rain has smashed her body against mine and rested her head across my neck.

Her head is resting on her front paws (pause), but her eyes are alert.
"Bye," I say to my uncle, and because I like him, I lean back inside the truck before I close the door, and I look directly into his eyes.  "Thank you for the ride," I say clearly.
Uncle Weldon smiles at me. "You're welcome.  I'll see you tomorrow." Finger crosses, heart touches.
My uncle waves to my father through the windshield and turns the truck around.
"You're not at work," I say to my father.
"Nope, not at work. Very observant."
This might (mite) be (bee) sarcasm, which is like mockery.

Rain is not there.  I call her name again.  Then I step onto the porch in my bare feet.  I stand at the top of the steps and call, "Rain! Rain! Rain! Rain!" into the gray morning.
The only sound I hear is dripping.
I begin to breathe very fast.
I think this is a sign of panic.
"Two, three, five, seven, eleven," I say. "Two, three, five, seven, eleven."

Just like life Rain Reign written by Ann M. Martin is heartbreaking and heartwarming.  Once you start this, you won't be able to put it down.  Readers will feel complete empathy for Rose Howard and her beautiful soul.  This book is a must read and should find a place on every bookshelf.

Ann M. Martin dedicates this book

In memory of sweet Sadie,
March 11, 1998-October 7, 2013

Sadie was her beloved dog.  In an author's note at the end she explains the inspiration for this book as well as the assistance she received.  If you follow the link embedded in the title, the publisher has created a special page for this book with excerpts and a discussion guide.  Publisher's Weekly provides Q & A with Ann M. Martin in an informative post.  Readers also might be interested in this article from ELLE magazine, Writing About Autism and Remembering 'The Babysitter's Club': A Q & A With Ann M. Martin.

Update November 21, 2014 Macmillan has released a discussion guide for this title.

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