The Flight of the Dove

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An inspiring story about an autistic child

Betsy is a child trapped inside her own body. Her autism keeps her isolated and alone, a world apart from even her mother. After hearing about a school for children with developmental disabilities, Betsy's mother enrolls her with high hopes. But once there, Betsy cries uncontrollably and refuses all attempts to comfort her. She sits with her eyes shut tight and her fists clenched. The head teacher believes that animals sometimes help ...

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Overview

An inspiring story about an autistic child

Betsy is a child trapped inside her own body. Her autism keeps her isolated and alone, a world apart from even her mother. After hearing about a school for children with developmental disabilities, Betsy's mother enrolls her with high hopes. But once there, Betsy cries uncontrollably and refuses all attempts to comfort her. She sits with her eyes shut tight and her fists clenched. The head teacher believes that animals sometimes help children overcome problems, so she tries to engage Betsy with the many pets in residence at the school. Betsy shows no interest in any of them -- until the day one special bird manages to catch her attention.
The Flight of a Dove is a moving story graced with evocative illustrations by the author, who works in hospitals with her own therapy dog.

Four-year-old Betsy, an autistic child, begins to improve after she sees a dove, one of the animals at her preschool, fly into the air. Based on a true story.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Betsy inhabits a world alone. Locked inside her body by autism, she sits immobile, eyes shut and fists clenched. But her teacher sees a way out. She believes that autistic children can sometimes be lured out of their isolation by animals. None of the classroom pets can breach the chasm until an exquisite bird ascends into Betsy's life. An evocative story by the author of Good Dog, Carl, this beautifully illustrated book will be welcomed by anyone who cares about the well-being of children with special needs.
Publishers Weekly
Inspired by a true story, Day (Good Dog Carl) draws a portrait of Betsy, a child who has "withdrawn so completely that she disliked being touched, would eat no solid food, made no sounds except a kind of hissing or clicking." The teachers at her school struggle to help her, but for months she seems unreachable until one of the school pets, a dove, becomes startled and takes to the air: "The flash of the soft white wings rising before her broke through the vacancy of Betsy's stare." Although some children may be put off by the initial images of Betsy literally portrayed within boxes in muted tones, the technique does telegraph the girl's isolation. And on the spread in which Betsy connects with the bird, the contrast in composition dramatically conveys the child's breakthrough. Subsequent illustrations also heighten the story's emotion as Betsy gingerly begins to hold hands with her classmates and pet a long avoided dog. Readers may well be interested in how the creatures play a role in Betsy's transformation, but the stiff, sometimes clinical writing and text-heavy pages likely won't grab their heartstrings. They're more likely to respond to the ending, when Betsy utters her first word ("Mommy"), a small victory that spells hope for a child so long trapped in her own mind. Ages 4-8. (Aug.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
From the author of the delightful "Good Dog, Carl" series comes a book with similarly luminous pictures, but a far more serious message. This is the story of four year-old Betsy, a severely autistic child who finally begins to open up to the world as she watches a dove fly. It is based on the true story of the little French girl told in Why the Wild Things Are, and on Ms. Day's experience with her Rottweiler, Zabala, a therapy dog who accompanied her into many hospitals. This is a very touching story. Ms. Day's fans will find paintings in the same radiant style as in all her previous books. Even the pictures of Betsy before her awakening are beautiful—almost too beautiful. Although Ms. Day uses muted tones and encases Betsy in a gray box, one still has a hard time identifying the child in the pictures with the dark, wooden images painted by the words. The publisher lists the book as being appropriate for ages four to eight, but much of the language is more sophisticated than normally found in a picture book. The first page alone weighs in at a 10.2 grade level on the Flesch-Kincaid readability scale. It is a beautiful book with a beautiful message. But because of the reading level, and because so many adults have enjoyed Ms. Day's earlier books, it may be more successful as one of those timeless fables that draws adults hungry for meaning and inspiration, than as a typical children's picture book. 2004, Farrar Strauss & Giroux, Ages 6 to 10.
—Dawn Elizabeth Hunt
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 2-The creator of the enormously popular "Carl" series (Farrar) offers a longer picture book about a little girl with autism and the animals that change her life. Betsy lives in an isolated, don't-touch-me world. Slowly, she warms to the sound and flight of a dove in her classroom. Eventually, she begins to pet the classroom dog, then holds hands with the teacher, and finally speaks her first word, "Mommy!" Unfortunately, the writing is dull and plodding, with long narrative sentences, often in the passive voice: "Her mother's heart was heavy with discouragement and self-reproach." During the first half of the book, Betsy is depicted in washed-out grays and blacks and encased in shaded blocks, while her surroundings are painted with more fluid brush strokes and brighter colors. After her interaction with the dove, she is fully integrated into the colorful scenes. The beautiful artwork effectively highlights her sense of isolation and the happiness of the conclusion, but cannot save the heavy-handed story.-Linda Beck, Indian Valley Public Library, Telford, PA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374399528
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 8/28/2004
  • Pages: 32
  • Product dimensions: 6.28 (w) x 10.30 (h) x 0.35 (d)

Meet the Author

Alexandra Day is the author and illustrator of the best-selling Carl books. She lives in Seattle, Washington.
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