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Beautiful Child

Beautiful Child

4.5 22
by Torey Hayden

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More than two decades ago, in her unforgettable international bestseller One Child, author Torey Hayden chronicled her poignant struggle to help a severely troubled little girl. Over the ensuing years, this dedicated special education teacher has faced many other heartbreaking challenges — and has never abandoned a child in need.



More than two decades ago, in her unforgettable international bestseller One Child, author Torey Hayden chronicled her poignant struggle to help a severely troubled little girl. Over the ensuing years, this dedicated special education teacher has faced many other heartbreaking challenges — and has never abandoned a child in need.

Beautiful Child

Seven-year-old Venus Fox's unresponsiveness was so complete that Torey Hayden initially believed the child was deaf. Venus never spoke, never listened, never even acknowledged the presence of another human being in the room with her. Yet an accidental playground bump would release a rage frightening to behold, turning the little girl into a whirling dynamo of dangerous malice.

Of the five children in Torey's classroom that September, Venus posed the greatest challenge — though the other four had serious problems of their own that could not be overlooked. The six-year-old twins Shane and Zane suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome and its accompanying mix of high agitation and low concentration. At nine, cocky, aggressive Billy had already been expelled from school twice. Eight-year-old Jesse suffered from Tourette's syndrome. And then there was Venus. Though all of the children had different needs and afflictions, they had two things in common: a profound, sometimes violent dislike of one another, and the desire to be almost anywhere other than Torey's class.

The school year that followed would prove to be one of the most trying, perplexing, and ultimately rewarding of Torey's career, as she struggled to reach a silent child in obvious pain and need and, at the same time, create an atmosphere of learning and cooperation in a class bent on chaos. It would be a strenuous journey beset by seemingly insurmountable obstacles and darkened by truly terrible revelations — yet encouraged by sometimes small, sometimes dazzling breakthroughs — as an intrepid teacher remained committed to helping a hopeless girl, and lead her toward the light of a new day.

In this remarkably moving account, Torey Hayden once again displays the insight, intelligence, humor, and, most important, the indomitable heart that have made her previous books not only phenomenal bestsellers worldwide but required reading for anyone personally touched by or interested in the treatment of emotionally disturbed children.

Editorial Reviews

Washington Post
“Hayden is a fine storyteller.”
Boston Globe
“The world needs more like Torey Hayden.”
New York Times
“It has been a long time since you read a book with the emotional impact of One Child.”
Los Angeles Times
“Page after page proves again the power of love and the resiliency of life.”
O magazine
“Moving...as lively and surprising as the kids it so deftly portrays.”
Chicago Tribune
“Fresh and compelling...[Hayden] spins out the story with gusto and a storyteller’s art.”
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. (Aug. 20) Forecast: There are more than one million copies of Hayden's books in print, and Morrow plans to repackage her backlist titles to coincide with Beautiful Child's publication. The inspirational angle coupled with Hayden's name recognition should add up to excellent sales. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Special education teacher Hayden is known for her powerful stories of children suffering from various forms of child abuse and trauma. Beautiful Child is another such story. As she did in her previous best sellers (Just Another Kid, Ghost Girl, The Tiger's Child), Hayden passionately narrates the story of her work with a special-needs child, Venus an unresponsive, almost catatonic seven-year-old girl. (Hayden also introduces us to the other children in her classroom primarily to Billy, Jesse, and twins Shane and Zane.) Called "beautiful child" by Wanda, the "sister" who brings her to school, Venus is far from beautiful: her appearance is unkempt, and she morphs from a brick wall into a banshee when her space is invaded. Hayden thoughtfully describes her struggles to form this particular class into a cohesive group and the many techniques used to coerce even the smallest response from Venus. Slowly, the class bonds, and even more slowly comes progress with Venus. This inspiring true story is recommended for most special-education as well as psychology collections. Terry Christner, Hutchinson P.L., KS Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The unsettling story of a mute, nearly catatonic seven-year-old in her special-education classroom. Hayden's dramatic account of a single school year shows the author (The Tiger's Child, 1995, etc.) struggling to break through the reserve of electively mute Venus Fox. The girl is one of nine children, all of whom have been in one form or another of special education and all subjected to family abuse. When Hayden first meets Venus, the child is so silent and unresponsive that deafness and mental retardation seem possible diagnoses. With painstaking slowness, the teacher gains the child's trust with a variety of techniques, using comic-book heroine She-Ra as a role model and crafting a cardboard "sword of power" decorated with paste jewels. Hayden spends every spare moment with Venus, reading children's stories to her while the other students are at recess. Although the girl ever so slowly comes out of her shell in the classroom, her home life rapidly deteriorates. Abused by her mother's boyfriend, she is eventually hospitalized and removed to foster care. Hayden's clashes with Julie, a teaching aide whose classroom approach is distinctly at odds with hers, serve as background to this drama. Added to these narratives are the stories of other students in the class: endearing Billy, a nine-year-old with a bad mouth, explosive temper, and genius IQ; Jesse, an obsessive eight-year-old with Tourette's syndrome; and Shane and Zane, six-year-old identical twins suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome. While Venus is perhaps the most damaged, all the kids need the help competently delivered by the author. Set in an unspecified location and year (presumably to protect the students' privacy), the storytakes on a timeless quality. As well as representing all special-needs children, the students come into focus as individuals about whom the reader cares deeply. An epilogue sees them into early adulthood. Compelling, well written, and extremely moving.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
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6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.09(d)
760L (what's this?)

Meet the Author

Torey Hayden is an educational psychologist and a former special education teacher who, since 1979, has chronicled her struggles in the classroom in a succession of bestselling books. She currently lives and writes in North Wales, U.K., with her husband and daughter.

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Beautiful Child 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 22 reviews.
Butterfly86 More than 1 year ago
As an educator, I love everything I have read about Torey Hayden and her experiences in the special education classroom. She portrays it as it is without reservations, including her feelings and what actually happens. Most education books are dry and do not explain real life scenarios. Torey Hayden tells her personal stories, showing that life in the classroom is not cut and dry and you have to deal with many unexpected consequences of working with such a special population. This story shows how she was finally able to reach a little girl who never said a word, and how Torey was able to unravel the entire story and find the underlying cause. I suggest reading all of her books over and over again!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Life is full of struggles that one must overcome. In Torey Hayden¿s autobiography Beautiful Child, not only does the reader see the struggles of being a Special Education teacher, but also gets a look into the strong bond that a teacher and student develop. Through her unique style of writing Hayden creates a story that keeps the reader both wanting to keep going and cheering her on as she struggles to help her students. Throughout the book, Hayden manages a classroom in which no day goes without there being a fight. Hayden¿s class is composed of six-year-old twins with fetal alcohol syndrome, a nine-year-old with Tourette¿s syndrome, another nine-year-old who has behavior problems that have caused him to come face to face with expulsion twice and then Venus who has become almost permanently silenced by her abusing stepfather. Through Venus, Hayden opens people¿s eyes, especially mine, to the sad reality that some children actually do go through when they go home. Venus¿s silence gives Hayden a new challenge: getting her to open up. It is through Venus that the bond and the will of a teacher to help her student are truly visible. It is through all her students though, that Hayden reveals 'to people like me who don¿t know anything about special education classes' how chaotic and hard it can be to run a class in which students do not choose to misbehave but can¿t control themselves. Hayden¿s descriptions of her classes give even some of my noisiest classes a sense of calmness. Hayden has a very special style of writing that not only keeps the reader interested but also lets her feelings soak through the pages. Hayden also gives the reader a reality check and shows how in some cases school is a better place for children especially those who have parents that are just waiting to abuse them mentally or physically.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is really great.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Wow! This novel was the best I have read in a VERY long time. It's so heartbreaking at some points, then charming and happy the next. . . an emmotional roller coaster, for sure! I hated and loved this book all at once. I usually never come close to tears with books, the last I did so was in third grade with 'Where the Red Fern Grows', but with this novel, at the end (not to give anything away) I nearly broke into tears! A great novel indeed, I would think that it must be one of Torey Hayden's best! Nothing can compare to the greatness or memorability of 'Beautiful Child'. READ IT!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Well written and interesting. The author spends most of the book discussing the episodes she had with Venus and her classmates. You find yourself becoming invested in the welfare of this poor child. I had a problem with the ending of the book. Once it is discovered what has caused Venus' condition, you are given a minimal amount of information as to what happens to her. There is little information as to Venus' future welfare. I found it frustrating and a let-down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
the book is very good and hard to put down and my mom loves Torey L. Hayden work and her books are well worth buying all of them.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a very good book that tells what some of the effects of abuse are on young children. Torey Hayden's books are awesome. I couln't put this book down. The other books by her are equally engaging, and I think a lot of people would love them. I mean, I do and I am only 13. (A Child Called It and the rest of that trilogy by David Pelzer are also very good)
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a great - very real book. It was hard to put down - I couldn't wait to see how things turned out. This is the first book I have read by this author, and I will definitely read more!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a Mom as well as a social worker and teacher. This book was easy to read and brought to mind children I have worked with. Great job Torey!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Because she had gone for so long without publishing a new book, I had almost given up that Torey Hayden would be writing another book. BEAUTIFUL CHILD was worth waiting for. Full of little wisdoms and consolations, it follows the course of a school year & the tribulations of a gifted teacher. The title character of BEAUTIFUL CHILD is a little girl who refuses to talk & the surprising way she finally speaks is redeeming and uplifting . Hayden has a special gift for the dialogue of young children so that there is not a false note in the story. The reader is drawn into the classroom because he cares about the participants. I just wish there were more Torey Haydens, both as teachers and as writers.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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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Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderful book. I found it very hard to put the book down. I really enjoyed all the details of her experiences and the emotions. It was described so well. I will definately be reading more of her books.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i thought it was gonna be something so stupid. Its a great book, its very real and i enjoyed it very much.