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

Torey Hayden, Author . Morrow $24.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-380-81339-1

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.

Reviewed on: 05/13/2002
Release date: 08/01/2002
Paperback - 432 pages - 978-0-00-723512-4
Paperback - 448 pages - 978-0-00-720763-3
Paperback - 400 pages - 978-0-06-266274-3
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