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Beautiful Child Hardcover – August 20, 2002

96 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Hayden has chronicled experiences from her long career as a special education teacher in several books, including One Child and The Tiger's Child. Successes in this difficult and often frustrating field can be few and hard-won, which Hayden deftly illustrates while simultaneously offering hope and joy in small victories. This time she brings to life the story of a scruffy seven-year-old, Venus, who is so unresponsive that Hayden searches for signs of deafness, brain damage or mental retardation. Familiar with Venus's siblings, other teachers warn Hayden not to expect much from Venus. Yet the author is relentless in her attempt to diagnose the cause of Venus's "almost catatonic" state, which is punctuated by occasional violent outbursts. Suspecting "elective mutism," a refusal to talk "for psychological reasons," Hayden persists in trying to draw Venus out. Her patient dedication finally pays off when the girl shows an interest in She-Ra, Princess of Power comic books. From there, a story of domestic abuse, removal to foster care and a slow emergence from silent isolation unfolds. However, Venus is not the only fascinating character here. Hayden sets Venus's bittersweet and complex story against the backdrop of other students, including one boy with a very high IQ but behavioral problems, another with Tourette's syndrome and a girl who inexplicably spouts sophisticated poetry and talks to her hand. In this first-person narrative, Hayden also shares her own thoughts, worries and strained relationship with a mismatched classroom aide, creating a rich tapestry of the dynamics of a group of special needs youngsters and the adults who try to help them.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-A crisply analytical depiction of one year in a special education classroom. Hayden's approach is straightforward and heartwarmingly compassionate not only in its portrayal of the relationships she developed with her students, but also in its appraisal of a philosophical conflict with her teacher's aide and the effect this had on the functioning of the students. The challenge of creating a highly structured, safe, yet sensitive and supportive environment for five children between the ages of six and nine, all with multiple emotional and developmental handicaps, is a study in creativity, perseverance, and keen observation. The author vividly describes her early struggles to inspire bonding among her charges and incremental progress in leading them toward norms of social behavior. The book ultimately focuses on Venus, age seven, whose impoverished and abusive home life frames the backdrop upon which her steps toward trust are poignantly rendered. Twins Shane and Zane, affected by fetal alcohol syndrome; Jesse, afflicted with Tourette's syndrome; and brash and aggressive Billy certainly present a full spectrum of challenges, but it is with Venus that the teacher's most indomitable problem-solving skills are engaged. Insightful and eminently readable, this book will be of particular value to students with a career interest in special education, social services, or counseling.
Lynn Nutwell, Fairfax City Regional Library, VA
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; 1st edition (August 20, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380813394
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380813391
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (96 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #332,697 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Torey Hayden is an educational psychologist and special education teacher who, since 1979, has chronicled her struggles in the classroom in a succession of best-selling books. She lives in North Wales with her daughter.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 40 people found the following review helpful By BeatleBangs1964 VINE VOICE on September 2, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When author Torey Hayden first meets Venus, then 7, the child is perched atop a high wall on the school playground. Venus rarely speaks and goes into attack mode when jostled by other children on the playground. Venus remains a silent observer in the class she shares with 9-year-old Billy, a gifted child with a minor case of dyslexia and a propensity for impulsive behavior; 8-year-old Jesse, a boy who has Tourette's Syndrome; 6-year-old twins Shane and Zane who have the congenital condition of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and part-time resource pupils 8-year-old Gwennie, a bright girl whose behavior and verbalizations are described as autistic and 8-year-old Alice, also given to frequent non sequitors interspersed with very poignant comments.

This group finally unites after a series of setbacks. Early in the year, fighting broke out contantly among the boys; Venus, too displayed a fair share of aggression whenever she attacked someone who bumped into her. The tension among the pupils was paralleled in Torey Hayden's differing educational approaches with her aide, Julie.

Matters reach a critical head when Venus is placed on homebound instruction for 2 months after she severely injures another child. During her absence, the boys team up by forming the poignantly ironic named group, "the Chipmunks" as a way of helping one another and gaining positive reinforcement. When Venus returns, she literally has to start from scratch. A chance encounter with a 1980s comic figure, She-Ra, sparks her curiosity; from there, Venus and teacher Torey Hayden knock down yet another wall. Venus expresses her wishes for a better life and for power and a "magic sword" like She-Ra has; she begins to inch her way into the group.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Boots in Texas on September 29, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Once again, Torey Hayden has yanked my heart from side to side! Venus, the seven year old in this story, is an amazingly brave soul. Just as Sheila was a "fighter" and "survivor" in Hayden's book, ONE CHILD, little Venus shows the same strength and courage in the face of what most of the world would consider insurmountable odds, although not necessarily in the same ways.
This book stirred me in a most peculiar way. I always have a desire to "help" after I read Hayden's books, but this book dug even deeper into my heart. I guess there are some things in this world that the majority of us will just never be able to understand at all.
I can tell already that I will be wondering for years, unless a sequel is written to answer my questions, what happened to Venus.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By E. Bukowsky HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 9, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Torey Hayden's new book, "Beautiful Child," is a moving account of Ms. Hayden's year teaching a class of children with serious emotional and physical problems. Shane and Zane are six-year-olds with fetal alcohol syndrome. Nine-year-old Billy is hyperactive and aggressive. Eight-year-old Jesse twitches and barks as a result of his Tourette's syndrome. The title refers to seven-year-old Venus Fox, a deeply withdrawn child from a dysfunctional family who is completely unresponsive to external stimuli.
Hayden vividly recounts the outrageous and often hilarious events that occur in her classroom in minute detail. We feel her frustration and elation as she describes her efforts to transform an angry and anti-social group of students into a cohesive and functioning class. Hayden is as unembarrassed about discussing her setbacks as she is pleased to discuss her successes. The author's honesty and realism give "Beautiful Child" an extra dimension that touches the heart.
The story of Venus Fox reduced me to tears. Hayden's painstaking efforts to bring Venus out of her shell had me cheering for this child who had so many strikes against her. I recommend "Beautiful Child" for all readers who are interested in the art of teaching children with special needs.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on August 24, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Once again I was drawn into feeling like I was in the class room with Torey and her kids. She is amazing how she connect with these kids. It's a shame there aren't more teachers like Torey. You will love this book. It makes you feel like you are right there with her teaching, you laugh and cry with her and feel the same frustations as she feels. It's so real. I love how she gets down on the child's level and treats all the children like they are people too without the children realizing that is what she is doing and how at the end the children teach themselves and Torey as much as Torey has taught them. I like the fact that when the children have a viewpoint that Torey listens and respects it and learns from it as do the children. It's so great how the children come to love Torey when they have such hard lives outside of school and come into her class with such bad feelings of the world and everyone in it. That in the end the children feel really good about themselves. Great job Torey, keep the books coming. You're great....
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca on August 22, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Torey Hayden again tells the story of one of her special education classrooms. Again she is able to nearly hypnotize the reader, rendering them unable to put down the book. Again she knows how to use the perfect mixture of humor and pain to create a story told from truth.
The only difference between this book and her others is the fact that there has been a large time gap between the writing of them. Torey has changed is some way concerning the way she writes, which makes the whole reading experience a little more exciting and special.
Read this book - you won't regret doing so.
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