Rain Reign – Ann M. Martin

Rain Reign is the story of Rose Howard. Rose is a young girl with Asperger’s Syndrome who loves homonyms, finds comfort in prime numbers, and has the sweetest dog, Rain (Reign).  Told in the narrative voice of Rose, this story allows us to see Rose’s life at home and at school; both offering up challenges for Rose.

At school, Rose has been held back due to her Asperger’s Syndrome. Her prime number outbursts, beating herself in the head, and having a personal aide cause her to not always be well received by her peers. Making conversation and interacting appropriately is challenging and we get to see Rose working through these interactions and gaining understanding of why the simplest things are so hard.

At home, Rose lives with her father. Rose’s mother left when Rose was young and all she has left is all her mother’s memories of Rose stored in a faded box. With a father who sporadically works but consistently drinks, home is an unsure place for Rose. Rose’s father is clearly frustrated with her constant questions, disruptions at school, and obsessions with homonyms.

There are two bright spots in Rose’s life: her dog Rain (Reign) and her Uncle Wes. Rain is always there waiting when Rose comes home and offers comfort and security. Together, Rose and Rain, are able to handle the moodiness of Rose’s father.  Uncle Wes is a treasure for Rose. He understands how she thinks and they even have a secret hand signal that they use. Uncle Wes is an anchor for Rose when life gets crazy.

And when a hurricane comes through town and Rain is lost, life is turned upside down and Rose is faced with a very difficult decision. Using her gift for order and routine, Rose is able to locate Rain when all hope seems lost. Then in a beautiful and amazing act of bravery and love, Rose makes a great sacrifice.

On a whim, I grabbed Rain Reign to read. Within the first chapter I was intrigued to see where this story was going to take me. I never imagined that it would be so moving, so compelling. At times I found myself reading with a little smile on my face and other times I was wiping tears from my cheek.

I think the power of this story comes from it being told in the narrative voice. Seeing Rose’s progression through the story, seeing her heart, her thoughts is so very powerful. I went into reading this story thinking it was a book about a girl who was autistic. How shallow of me.

This was a beautiful story of friendship, love, and sacrifice. The story being told in the voice of a girl with Asperger’s Syndrome adds another layer. A layer that will perhaps help us to be more understanding, more patient, more kind to those around us.

As soon as I finished Rain Reign, I handed it off to my twelve year old daughter. She hasn’t finished the book yet but we are already having discussions about different characters and their choices. In hindsight, I would make this a read aloud so we could all share it together. I am so glad that I didn’t overlook this simply told story of a girl and her dog.


Family Game Time with USAopoly – A Review

In the hall closet, under the beds, on the bookshelves are all spots that we have games stacked and shoved. The only thing better than playing a game or two is adding something new to the stash. Recently we added two new games, Tapple: Fast Word Fun for Everyone and Wonky: The Crazy Cubes Card Game, to our game collection. USAopoly kindly allowed us to review these family friendly games and I am excited to share them with you.

You can learn more about USAopoly at their About page. Take a moment to watch the  Our Company Story Video. 

Tapple is designed for 2-8 players/Ages 8 and up. Game play takes about 10-20 minutes. Allow extra time for laughter.

Tapple Fast Word Fun for Everyone!  Do you enjoy word games? Can you think fast? Like to laugh? Yes? Well, let me tell you about Tapple. The simplicity of this game is what really makes it shine. A small deck of Category cards that are double sided provide for plenty of play.  Some of our favorite categories are: Historical Figures, Cities, and Fictional Characters. The Tapple wheel (two AA batteries are needed) has 20 letters and a 10 second timer in the middle. That is all you need for a quick, fun game with the family.

Game play is easy! Here’s a quick video to show how it’s done.

Creative thinking can be the key to winning those challenging categories. With this fast paced game, it isn’t what you know but how fast you can recall what you know.

Tapple has provided much laughter around our table. My kiddos ages 9 and up have enjoyed playing a quick game in the afternoons. It provides a great “brain break” after a day of studying. It has been interesting to see who is better at quick thinking or perhaps thinking outside the box. The oldest does not always take the easy win.

Tapple could be easily adapted to allow younger ones to play. Simple turn the timer off so the pressure of “beating the clock” is gone or perhaps give them two timer rounds to give an answer. You can also come up with your own categories that are easier for younger players or work in teams. With a large family finding games that allow for a large group to play can be challenging. I love that Tapple not only allowed up to eight players but that I could flex it a bit for my younger ones as well.

Wonky is designed for 2 or more players/ 8 year of age and up. This game is great for large families.

Wonky: The Crazy Cubes Card Game – This game has been a huge hit in our home. Who knew that stacking wooden blocks would be engaging, frustrating, and hilarious all at the same time? USAopoly has created another game that is genius in its simplicity.

A deck of strategy cards, 9 crazy wooden cubes, and a flat surface is all that is needed for game play. Trust me. You are going to want a flat, sturdy surface. Here’s how you play:


Stacking the blocks in Wonky is challenging because not only are there three sized cubes, the sides are not even and flat. All of the cubes have curved sides. This can quickly throw towers off balance. While you definitely need cube stacking skills, the essence of this games comes down to strategy. You really have to know how to play your cards so that you use your cards up first.

Of course with a game like Wonky choosing where you play the game is almost as crucial as strategy. Especially if you have a 15 month old in the house. Ezra, our resident block tower demolition master, found the colorful cubes of Wonky too much to resist. He was more than happy to bring the towers crashing down. Perhaps USAopoly should put a warning on the box if playing near a toddler.

We have loved playing Wonky. This is a game that doesn’t limit the number of players. You just adjust the number of cards dealt according to the number of players. Perfect for the large family game night! While game play is for ages 8 and up, my three, five, and seven year olds love playing Wonky. It is stacking blocks, right? Preschoolers are masters of the blocks! Naturally, they do not have the strategic skills to use the cards to their advantage. But the cards are very easy to understand so even the three year old knows which blocks to play. She doesn’t really care if she wins or not. She is just happy to be playing with the big kids.

Tapple and Wonky have added fun and laughter to our afternoons and family game nights. We are still waiting to see who will be the one to master stacking all the Wonky blocks. A competitive spirit may run strong in the Tribe. These game would be great to add to your family’s stash of games. Perfect for a birthday gift or the holiday season.

But don’t just take my game loving family’s word for it. See what other Crew members thought about Tapple and Wonky! Don’t forget to check out other games from USAopoly!

 USAopoly Review
Crew Disclaimer

And from the Picture Book Basket

It would appear that my reading time has excluded the younger crowd. Never fear! There is always a vast selection of picture book reading happening around the house. My little ones may not realize how wonderful they have it when it comes to books. So many available readers to cuddle up with and enjoy a good book! Hannah (9) who is quite good at spotting a quality picture book is always willing to read to her littlest siblings.

Here are a few we have enjoyed over the past several weeks:

Yard Sale (Eve Bunting) –  When financial struggles happen to Callie’s family, moving from their home into a smaller apartment becomes a necessity. Callie’s mom and dad have a yard sale as they downsize and declutter. Her parents have explained that they are moving into a nice but smaller home and some of their things just won’t fit. Callie doesn’t quite understand and when she sees some of her favorite things being taken away, emotions get the best of her. With some help from her parent’s Callie learns what is really important in a home.

This simple picture book relays a real life event that can be overwhelming for many young ones. Leaving the home you have always known, letting go of treasured possessions, and learning what is truly important can be challenging at any age. We really enjoyed this sweet (and a little sad) story. I must confess that I did tear up a bit when Callie saw her bike being sold. While this story may seem harsh and depressing to some, I do think it has a relevant message. Many people are facing economic challenges. Helping little ones understand changes can be difficult. I know my children and I had some great conversation after sharing this story together.

The Dog Who Belonged to No One (Amy Hest) – A young girl who delivers her family’s bread by bicycle would love nothing more than a friend to join her on her deliveries. A small dog who travels the roads unseen by those around him longs for a home. Would anyone take him in? We all know how this one will end. At the end of a lonely, rainy day, girl and dog find each other. A perfect happy ending.

Beautiful illustrations complement the story.  Any one who loves a story about a cute, lonely doggie will be sure to love The Dog Who Belonged to No One. I would say ages 5 and up would most likely appreciate this one.

This is Not My Hat (Jon Klassen) – Enjoy a bit of humor? You will want to check this one out. Every time I read This is Not My Hat, my kiddos were laughing. Little Fish sneaks a hat and is confident that he is going to get away. The Enormous Fish will never know who took it. No one will tell Enormous Fish where Little Fish has gone, right?

The illustrations tell a different tale. While Little Fish is confident of his get-away with the hat, Enormous Fish is hot on his fins. Subtle details like the look in the fish’s eyes and the “he won’t tell” crab really make this story enjoyable. A simple and fun story to add to the book basket.

We are always looking for new selections to add to our basket. What have you been reading lately?