Just as with works written for adults, there are so many good books penned with younger readers in mind, that the problem becomes not finding the books, but having enough time to read them all!
Reading works written for children, as an adult, can be an emotionally rewarding experience. While I am usually reading with a specific set of younger readers in mind, I have discovered many books to be enjoyable on a personal level, simply because they are well-written and speak to my heart.
When reading children’s literature, one tends to skip the drama often associated with the Young Adult genre that has become so popular, and the pages of extraneous information often found in grown-up books. It is, in a sense, a return to childhood innocence.
In fewer pages, authors must pen characters that get right to the heart of things, and tend to speak to issues that even less sophisticated readers can appreciate. Seeing the world through the mostly younger protagonists allows us to put on a pair of kid-colored glasses for a time, and remember the days when all of the adult clutter of life didn’t cloud our judgment.
If a children’s book is written well, it is not “dumbed down” to a juvenile level, simply written in terms that are universally understandable. Honestly, who among us wouldn’t enjoy a reading experience like that?
Last weekend, as I accompanied my husband and teenage son to a football tournament in Las Vegas, I was able to enjoy one of these special moments with a children’s book, “Rain Reign,” by Ann M. Martin, which was one of the 2015 ALA Youth Media Award winners. It also recently won the inaugural National Council of Teachers of English Charlotte Huck Award for Outstanding Fiction for Children. This award recognizes fiction that “has the potential to transform children’s lives by inviting compassion, imagination, and wonder.”
In “Rain Reign,” we meet Rose, a young girl who is in the fifth grade. As Rose says, “Most of my classmates are ten
years old, or about to turn eleven, I’m almost twelve, because no one is sure what to do with me in school. I’ve stayed back for two semesters, which is a total of one year. (1/2 +1/2 = 1).”
Rose is autistic, and no one, except her sweet Uncle Weldon, gets her, least of all her impatient single father. Rose sums herself up with this description: “I like homonyms a lot. And I like words. Rules and numbers too. Here is the order in which I like these things: 1. Words (especially homonyms) 2. Rules 3. Numbers (especially prime numbers.)”
Living in a world in which she follows her own set of strict rules, and struggles to find ways to relate to her classmates, Rose is largely isolated. She finds comfort in three things: yelling out prime numbers when she is stressed, finding new homonym pairs and trios, and the companionship of her beloved dog, Rain (Rein, Reign.)
When Rain gets out in the aftermath of a superstorm, Rose (Rows) is set on a journey that will both test her, and show her amazing spirit, compassion, and dedication to the rules she loves.
I loved reading this book, skillfully written by Martin in Rose’s own voice. Peppered throughout with homonyms, the reader gets to experience to some degree what it is like to live in Rose’s head, and see the world as she does. While her father’s insensitivity will make you cringe, Uncle Weldon embodies all any differently-abled child can hope for in terms of adult support. Additionally, Rose’s later interactions with her classmates illustrate the power of a simple kindness to bridge seemingly impassable gaps.
The fact that my husband glanced across our Vegas hotel room to find me reading with tears in my eyes should be all the endorsement you need to add this book to your collection.
Edie Crabtree is an avid reader and the mother of three active boys. She can be reached at [email protected]