TODAY
DECEMBER
22

A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
DECEMBER 22:

  • It’s the birth date of William O. Steele (1917–1979) The Perilous Road.
  • In 1864, Savannah, Georgia falls to General Sherman, concluding his March to the Sea during the American Civil War. Read Delivery Justice: W.W. Law and the Fight for Civil Rights by Jim Haskins, illustrated by Benny Andrews.
  • Ito Hirobumi, a samurai, became the first prime minister of Japan in 1885. Read Three Samurai Cats by Eric Kimmel, illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein, and Samurai by Jason Hightman.
  • Beatrix Potter died on this day in 1943. Her legacy lives on in the wonderful books she wrote and illustrated, including The Tale of Peter Rabbit and The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck.

December has been designated Read a New Book Month, and today I want to talk about my favorite new book of 2014, Ann M. Martin’s Rain Reign. For some time Ann Martin has qualified as one of the heroines of the 20-something crowd I teach in various graduate programs. Always, when I ask my students who they loved reading as a child, Ann comes to the top of the list because she created The Babysitter’s Club, the books that turned them into readers.

But in the last decade, Ann has turned her hand to crafting individual and highly skilled works of fiction like My Corner of the Universe. In her most recent book, Rain Reign, we meet Rose Howard, a fifth-grade girl with a hard road ahead of her. Diagnosed with Autism, Rose lives with her father, who has little money or patience to give her. Rose spends her days gathering homonyms and keeps a list of her treasures. Because she has no computer, she must write her list over and over, adding each new gem. And although her father often fails to understand her, Rose has been blessed with an Uncle who spends a lot of time with her and provides emotional support. But one night her father brings home a stray dog for a pet. And Rain does for Rose what devoted dogs have done for millions of children over the years: provides a source of understanding and love.

When Rain vanishes in a horrible storm, Rose must begin a heart-breaking search to find her dog. Now I do not support or review dead dog books; Gordon Korman (No More Dead Dogs) and I have long been in agreement. But even though Rain lives, I found myself sobbing at an ending that both surprised me and seemed completely perfect.

Rose emerges in this book as a completely believable child; the story, simply and beautifully told, compels readers to keep turning the pages. I’ve already had reports of children reading Rain Reign into the night and pressing it on classmates the next day.

Ann Martin makes storytelling for children look so easy. And yet the craft and skill behind this type of novel has been honed for decades. She has accomplished one of the hardest things for any writer for children and has crafted a beautifully written story, of quality content, that children will want to read. In fact, if you are hunting for a silver bullet book that will work for readers ages 8-12, this year look no further than Rain Reign, one of those books that will be beloved and remembered by children and adults alike.

Here’s a passage from Rain Reign:

Mrs. Leibler tells me that there are thing worth talking about besides homonyms and rules and prime numbers. She encourages me to think up conversation starters. Some conversation starters about me that do not have anything to do with homonyms or rules or prime numbers are:

I live in a house that faces northeast. (After I say that, I ask the person I’m trying to have a conversation with, “And which direction does your house face?”)

Originally posted December 22, 2014. Updated for .

Tags: Animals, Autism, Dogs, Special Needs
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for Rain Reign
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Daily children’s book recommendations and events from Anita Silvey.

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