Tag: dogs

Bookish Illuminations: Rain Reign (2014) by Ann M. Martin

Bookish Illuminations: Rain Reign (2014) by Ann M. MartinRain Reign by Ann M. Martin
Published by Macmillan on October 7th 2014
Genres: Animals, Dogs, Middle Grade, Realistic, Social Issues, Special Needs
Pages: 240
Goodreads
five-stars

Rose Howard is obsessed with homonyms. She’s thrilled that her own name is a homonym, and she purposely gave her dog Rain a name with two homonyms (Reign, Rein), which, according to Rose’s rules of homonyms, is very special. Not everyone understands Rose’s obsessions, her rules, and the other things that make her different – not her teachers, not other kids, and not her single father.When a storm hits their rural town, rivers overflow, the roads are flooded, and Rain goes missing. Rose’s father shouldn’t have let Rain out. Now Rose has to find her dog, even if it means leaving her routines and safe places to search. Hearts will break and spirits will soar for this powerful story, brilliantly told from Rose’s point of view.

Suggested age range: 9 and up

If you read my Friday 56 post, you’ll know that today I plan to share with my thoughts on Ann M. Martin’s Middle Grade stand alone, Rain Reign.  Happy Monday and Enjoy!

Illuminations

First things first.

I loved Rose’s relationship with her dog, Rain. When things became difficult between her and her father, Rain was a source of comfort and protection. Rain was also a joy for Rose’s classmates to see the day she follows Rose into her classroom–this created a space for Rain to talk about something with her classmates beside homonyms.

When Rain is lost in a big storm about halfway through the book, things get a little tense, and like many other readers, I’m sure, I was hoping against hope that Rain would be found. Rose finds out what one must do to search for a lost pet after a storm, and she is remarkably adept and detail-oriented; she does what she has to do. What makes the book so fantastic is the way the reader gets a true glimpse into Rose’s thought processes by hearing her side of things. As someone who reads a lot of children’s and young adult literature, I’m endlessly fascinated by the notion of an adult author trying to portray the perspective of a young person. Will it work or won’t it? I like what Ann M. Martin has done here, with this story, but it’s always helpful to remember that this is a work of writing by an adult. Raising this point makes for interesting discussion, that’s for sure, and it’s a point that is unique the world of children’s literature.

With that in mind, getting close to Rose’s voice and her dreams and disappointments is an important part of the book. Even though readers may not come into contact with children with Asperger’s on a daily basis, reading Rose’s story can raise readers’ awareness, and though it’s fiction, the story gives us the opportunity to develop compassion for a young character who possesses a unique perspective on her surroundings. This brings up something that I think good fiction can accomplish: it can affect our social sensitivity.

Rose’s mother is absent from her life, and her father is often at the bar after work. But Rose’s uncle and Rose share a significant relationship, and he spends time with her. So, though Rose’s parents aren’t there for her as much as she needs, her relationship with her uncle fills a gap, and this is crucial.

Who Should Read This Book

Fans of Lisa Graff’s Absolutely Almost will definitely appreciate this book. As I was reading it, I couldn’t help but think about Albie in Graff’s newest novel. It’s interesting that I read both of these books fairly close to one another. They both feature rich and authentic child protagonists who are making sense of themselves and those around them.

Both books highlight heartwarming narratives that are uplifting, but they don’t skate around the sad things that happen to Rose and Albie. Sometimes it can seem difficult to find books with protagonists living with autism, but Graff and Martin have provided two 2014 books that provide such books for readers.

Rose announces that she has been diagnosed with Asperger’s in the second chapter of the book—this isn’t something hidden from the reader. Rose is an endearing character, and just as Albie’s perspective is provided for the reader, making it easier to understand him, Martin does the same in the narrative for Rose. Because we get a deeper glimpse into Rose’s thought processes through the story, we feel more compassion for her and what she’s going through. And so many of us know what it’s like to be searching for a lost pet! In that respect, the book is relevant to a huge spectrum of readers.

And just look at that cover! The title (a homonym—and you know, Rose is obsessed with homonyms) and the cover image were enough to draw me in to read the book. The hues, the silhouette of Rose and Rain, and the font style of the title certainly caught my eye. What I felt: Mystery, excitement, and hope for what was beyond the storm. (If seeing that Ann M. Martin wrote it hadn’t been enough!)

The Final Illumination

I grew up reading all of Ann M. Martin’s Babysitter Club books. Though I read series books as well as stand alones and a huge variety of genres, I appreciated the comfort and the patterns in the Babysitter Club plots. I followed the lives of Kristy, Mary Ann, Dawn, Stacy, and Claudia, and loved the fact that they would be the same girls every time I started a new book. Ann M. Martin was definitely an important author to my young reader self.

More recently, I’ve read one of her Doll People books, but no other stand alones she’s written. Now that I’ve read Rain Reign, I plan to hunt down the others—because she’s not just talented at writing series books. With Rain Reign she’s crafted a beautiful, but not overly sweet story about a girl learning to navigate the world of home and school, while facing challenges that many children never have to deal with. Her story is an important one, and though I had pretty high expectations for this one, I was even more blown away by Ann M. Martin’s ability to pull me into Rose’s world, and feel tremendously sad as I turned that last page. (Sad, at least, that I was saying goodbye to Rose!)

Did you read this 2014 realistic novel? Did you like it as much as I did?

five-stars
What Katie Read

Honey (2015) by Sarah Weeks (Release Date: January 27th)

Honey (2015) by Sarah Weeks (Release Date: January 27th)Honey by Sarah Weeks
Published by Scholastic Inc. on January 27th 2015
Genres: Family, Friendship, Middle Grade, Realistic, Social Issues
Pages: 160
Goodreads
four-stars

For a girl like Melody and a dog like Mo, life can be both sticky and sweet. Melody has lived in Royal, Indiana, for as long as she can remember. It's been just her and her father, and she's been okay with that. But then she overhears him calling someone Honey -- and suddenly it feels like everyone in Royal has a secret. It's up to Melody and her best friend, Nick, to piece together the clues and discover why Honey is being hidden. Meanwhile, a dog named Mo is new to Royal. He doesn't remember much from when he was a puppy . . . but he keeps having dreams of a girl he is bound to meet someday. This girl, he's sure, will change everything. In HONEY, Sarah Weeks introduces two characters -- one a girl, one a dog-- who are reaching back further than their memories in order to figure out where they came from and where they're going. It's a total treat from beginning to end. (From GoodReads)

Suggested Age Range: 8 and up

Illuminations of Spirituality in Honey:

It can be tough living without a mother, even if Melody’s father is pretty cool and they get along just fine. But when Melody hears her dad call someone else “Honey,” she has to get to the bottom of the identity of this person.

I don’t blame Melody—especially when she is still struggling with the idea that she never knew her mother. That’s a space in her heart that can’t be filled by anyone else. This story explores that predicament, and it also highlights the importance of our relationships with others in the face of loss and misunderstanding. It also illuminates the significance of honesty and communication—a good reminder for both young AND old readers.

Can dogs dream? That question surfaces with Mo—the dog who is desperate to find the girl of his dreams and who just may very well lead him back to his original home. A home where he was loved and celebrated.

Melody’s perspective is interspersed with Mo’s throughout the story, and you might wonder how they are ever going to collide. Weeks weaves the two stories together magnificently, but I will say no more.

I have read so many middle grade books recently that highlight young characters in need of healing after losing a close family member or friend in their lives. The Secret Hum of a Daisy and Counting by 7s are two I can think of right off the top of my head. This seems to be a popular topic in children’s literature, because it’s something that young people, sadly, may be going through. These stories are important because they don’t sugarcoat the struggle to be happy after losing a parent or other loved one.

Creative Illuminations:

At 160 pages, Honey is delightfully short and sweet, but I actually would have welcomed more time with Skittle-loving Melody, Sweet Mo, and the Beauty Salon. It’s Bee-Bee, the Beauty Salon owner, who tells Melody a bit more about her mother. Readers who have lost friends or family might be reminded, through the story, that remembering and celebrating the memories of those we love is important. Whether it’s through writing about them, creating art, or just talking about them, this “remembering” is valuable.

The book ends with the 100 nail polish colors in Bee-Bee’s salon. Melody plays a role in creating many of these names, and young readers could even extend the list and create some of their own “shades.” I would definitely be interested in getting my hands on some of those polishes. These shades sound fantastic! If Sarah Weeks based the book on a real salon carrying the colors mentioned in the story, I think that salon might just receive some new patrons.

The Final Illumination:

This story might pull a few tears from readers, but though it has its sad parts, it ultimately ends on a sweet note, and many readers will be fondly thinking of the characters as they turn that last page and feast upon the names of those 100 bottles of nail polish Melody creates. I know I laughed and hoped for the best for Melody, her father, and Mo as I savored the book, and the community Weeks depicts in the story is a memorable one.

Melody names one of the nail polishes, “Silver Linings,” and Honey certainly shows how’s there a silver lining to any cloud—it’s just all in your perspective.

If you enjoyed, Pie, you should absolutely taste Honey! Of course I’m partial to any book with baking (and a pie shop, as in the case with Pie) but Honey is another delightful realistic narrative from a fantastic author.

Thank you Scholastic, for the e-ARC of Honey. This is in no way affected my honest review!

four-stars
What Katie Read
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