We get a lot of mileage out of our Audible membership. The kids listen to books daily, my husband has his favorites, and I’ve got my audible TBR stack that’s only a little more under control than my printed book pile.
I love all the member features offered by Audible – they now offer a Plus catalog of free listens, which I’m taking advantage of, especially for shorter listens for the kids. But one feature I was not aware of until recently was their lists and collections.
I recently got an email from Audible mentioning a collection put together by an Audible editor – books about or featuring neurodiversity. There are lists for memoirs, fiction titles, nonfiction titles, books for children and teens. It’s an incredible resource! I browsed a bit and decided on a fiction book from the Children and Teens lists.
We’ve spent the past week and a half listening to Rain Reign as part of our morning read aloud time. The kids and I have loved the story, and while I’ve tried to keep our time to just a couple of chapters so we can also fit in some of our other reading, on Friday we kept doing “one more chapter” as we were wrapped up in the story and wanted to finish.
This book is categorized as Children and Teens, but I think this story will impact any age group, especially if they have loved ones who are on the spectrum.
Rain Reign, written by Ann M. Martin and narrated by Laura Hamilton, is the story of a girl named Rose Howard. Rose, who has a diagnosis of (high functioning) autism, lives alone with her father and her dog Rain, and is obsessed with homonyms and following the rules.
The story is told from Rose’s point of view, and the narrator does a fantastic job bringing the story to life. I don’t think this book would have been as impactive if it hadn’t been from Rose’s point of view, to be honest. As you listen to the narrator, you can feel how Rose struggles with communication and understanding emotions, how her anxiety builds in different situations, and some of the ways she copes and self-regulates.
Rose is obsessed with homonyms, and so she is constantly thinking of them, wanting to talk about them, and you can see how her father (and others) react to this. As she is telling her story, she often interjects the spellings of words when she uses homonyms. When I was deciding on whether to buy this book, I listened to the sample and read some reviews. One reviewer actually commented that the narrator spelling the homonyms (as it is written in the book) disrupted the flow of the story. As we listened to the book, I thought about that reviewer’s comment. I think the homonyms DO disrupt the flow, but I also think that’s the point. As Rose goes through her daily routine, her thoughts often go to homonyms, and the way the author wrote the homonyms into the story makes the reader that much more able to put themselves into the mind of the character.
One thing that has really stuck with me is how important a support system is for helping kids on the spectrum reach their full potential. This support system may not necessarily include parents. In Rain Reign, Rose lives in a dysfunctional home with a father who doesn’t really acknowledge her diagnosis, has little patience for her behavioral issues that come with her diagnosis, and puts minimal effort into meeting her special needs. Thankfully she does have an advocate in her uncle, her school aide and her teacher.
We finished the book a couple of days ago, and I am still thinking about the story, the characters, the struggles. Stories told from the point of view of autistic characters (and other neurodiverse characters) are so important to building empathy. We may have loved ones on the spectrum, and be familiar with obsessions, fixations, rigidity, regulation, etc, but we are still looking at this from the outside. A story written from an autistic person’s point of view can let us see and experience (to an extent) what life on the spectrum is like on the inside.
This is an incredible book and I recommend listening or reading it with your children. It’s listed as middle grade level, suggested for grades 4-7. I think the grade level suggestion is reasonable – Rose’s father spends a lot of his time at the local bar, and loses his temper more than once during the story. At one point, Rose is called retarded by a school mate. My youngest is 6 years old, and enjoyed the book, but I did discuss some of this content as we came across it.