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A Child Called It: One Child's Courage to Survive Paperback – September 1, 1995

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Editorial Reviews Review

David J. Pelzer's mother, Catherine Roerva, was, he writes in this ghastly, fascinating memoir, a devoted den mother to the Cub Scouts in her care, and somewhat nurturant to her children--but not to David, whom she referred to as "an It." This book is a brief, horrifying account of the bizarre tortures she inflicted on him, told from the point of view of the author as a young boy being starved, stabbed, smashed face-first into mirrors, forced to eat the contents of his sibling's diapers and a spoonful of ammonia, and burned over a gas stove by a maniacal, alcoholic mom. Sometimes she claimed he had violated some rule--no walking on the grass at school!--but mostly it was pure sadism. Inexplicably, his father didn't protect him; only an alert schoolteacher saved David. One wants to learn more about his ordeal and its aftermath, and now he's written a sequel, The Lost Boy, detailing his life in the foster-care system.

Though it's a grim story, A Child Called "It" is very much in the tradition of Chicken Soup for the Couple's Soul and the many books in that upbeat series, whose author Pelzer thanks for helping get his book going. It's all about weathering adversity to find love, and Pelzer is an expert witness.

From School Library Journal

Grade 9 Up?This autobiographical account charts the abuse of a young boy as his alcoholic mother first isolates him from the rest of the family; then torments him; and finally nearly kills him through starvation, poisoning, and one dramatic stabbing. Pelzer's portrayal of domestic tyranny and eventual escape is unforgettable, but falls short of providing understanding of extreme abuse or how he made his journey from "Victim to Victor." It takes some work to get past the poor writing and the self-aggrandizing back matter, but the book tries fervently to provide a much-needed perspective. One of the greater obstacles to healing for males is admitting that they have been victims, especially if their perpetrator is a woman. This author has overcome that obstacle and succeeded in life by such masculine norms as joining the Air Force and receiving awards for his volunteerism. However, while personal accounts of child maltreatment provide crucial information about the realities of childhood, youngsters need insight and hope in order to digest the raw material of abuse. James Deem's The 3 NBs of Julian Drew (Houghton, 1994) is a well-crafted, fictional work that effectively covers much of the same ground.?Carolyn Polese, Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 184 pages
  • Publisher: HCI; Reissue edition (September 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1558743669
  • ISBN-13: 978-1558743663
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.2 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3,427 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,572 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Overcoming a life threatening childhood, Dave Pelzer is the epitome of a self-made man. For over twenty years, Dave has been a catalyst for dramatic social change by promoting resilience. Dave's prestigious accomplishments include personal commendations from Presidents Reagan, Bush, Clinton and George W. Bush. In 1993, Dave was honored as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Americans. A year later Dave was the only American to be honored as The Outstanding Young Persons of the World! In 2005, Dave was presented with the National Jefferson Award, which is considered to be the Pulitzer Prize for public service. Dave is also the author of seven life changing books, beginning with A Child Called "It" that started a world-wide phenomenon. His newest book, Too Close To Me is being released September 1, 2014.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

377 of 414 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 7, 1999
Format: Paperback
A Child Called "It" is a real life story about a boy who was brutally beaten and starved by his mentally disturbed and alcoholic mother. At first, David Pelzer lived a healthy and normal life with his parents and brothers. His mother, however, unexpectedly transformed into a monster, venting her anger on her helpless child. David was submerged in freezing cold water, forced to eat his own vomit, slept in the basement under the stairs, stabbed, and forced to sit on a burning stove. These are just a few of the torturous games that his mother used to play. She treated him not like her son, but like an "it". David suffered both mental and physical abuse. In order to survive from his mother's sick games, David used willpower. Through all of her torturous games, David's inner strength began to emerge.
This book is a perfect example of how the human spirit can provide strength in the toughest of situations. David's spirit helped him to survive through his mother's emotional and physical abuse. He refused to let his mother win. He had no one to help him so he learned how to fend for himself. His courage and determination saved him from all of the suffering that he endured at such a young age.
David is a living testament of resilience. His faith and personal responsibility helped him transform into an emotionally healthy and competent adult. A large percentage of emotionally and physically abused children become abusive in their adult years. The abusiveness could be a cycle, passed down from generation to generation. Their rage and pain of being abused could be turned on themselves or the ones they love. David, at a young age, showed strong signs of being a planner as well as a problem solver.
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63 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Steve Sigmon on June 8, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As a YA media specialist, I know what teens love: an I-can't-believe-this-crap-happened child abuse memoir. (The I-can't-believe-it-est out there? Straightling: A Memoir (Hey Kid Series). It's a true story you wish wasn't true.) Dave Pelzer's A Child Called It is the biggie in this category. I can't keep it in the media center, because it always "goes missing." If teens are stealing a book, you know it's a good one!

Here are the reasons they love it:
1: Spoiler alert: In this true story, Pelzer's mother does unbelievable things to him. She makes him eat a bar of soap, a tablespoon of bleach, and the contents of his brother's diaper.
2: Grody alert: The scenes are explicit and visual. After his mother forces him to drink dish detergent, Pelzer says, "...diarrhea took hold...clumps of watery matter fell through my underwear and down my pants legs, to the floor."
3: It's fast and easy to read. Pelzer doesn't use big vocabulary words, and the type on the page is large and well-spaced.
4: In between the shocking abuse scenes, there are events all kids can relate to, such as bullies at school and made-up games in the backyard.
5: Pelzer's father's reactions to the abuse are fascinating and horrifying: "Jesus H. Christ! Does your mother know that you're in here talking to me? Damn it, boy, we don't need to do anything that might make her more upset! I don't need to go through that tonight...."
6: There is a thread of childish hope running through the book. Maybe his father will help him this time. Once in a while a caring adult at school notices his bruises.
7: The clincher: Pelzer's story took a "worst of" award.
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82 of 98 people found the following review helpful By Heather Gibb on April 20, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book is the story of David Peltzer, who at a very young age was systematically abused and tortured by his own mother while his own father and siblings stood by and watched, sometimes even inflicting there own torture on the very young lad. As a mother of two, my daughter being the same age as David was when his abuse began, I found this a truly distressing story. I had tears in my eyes as David described how his mother would gleefully play "games" with him. On one occassion attempting to burn him on a lit gas stove, on another stabbing him and then not making an attempt to seek medical help for the lad. David was forced to shut down emotionally in order to survive the horrific surroundings in which he was forced to live. From sleeping in a cold garage on an old army cot to the severe beatings which could have killed him. His story is told from the heart of a child yet we can still only begin to imagine what it must have been like to receive this sort of treatment from the one person meant to love and protect him - his mother. In The Lost boy we are taken on the journey of Davids battle to be accepted into a society which does not understand the full extent of his misery. His many foster homes and schools and his ongoing battle with his mother who even after losing her son to the state, was still determined to hurt him from a distance by attempting to have him committed. David grows from a confused frustrated young child into a struggling young adult with the foster child stigma of the times firmly attached to him. Yet he overcomes all of this to join the forces and carve a career for himself. I am now begining to read the 3rd installment of Davids life - A Man Called David and look forward to following his story further into adulthood.Read more ›
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