Beautiful Child: The Story of a Child Trapped in Silence and the Teacher Who Refused to Give Up on Her

Overview

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 ...
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Overview

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, andlead her toward the light of a new day.In this remarkablymoving 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.
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Editorial Reviews

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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780613648431
  • Publisher: Turtleback Books: A Division of Sanval
  • Publication date: 7/1/2003
  • Pages: 400

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