Another fine account by Hayden (One Child, Somebody Else's Kids, Murphy's Boys) of teaching children who have been damaged by early trauma or neurological dysfunctions. As before, Hayden is faced with an outlandish collection of ""misfits""; yet, by year's end, most have made notable progress. Dirkie (a victim of childhood schizophrenia and ""bizarre family acts"") develops some control over his wild excitability. Shemona, orphaned in Northern Ireland's fratricidal violence, arrives as an ""elective"" mute dominated by her bossy older sister, Geraldine. She not only starts speaking (after being weened from her sister) but, by term's end, is ready for a regular classroom--as are two other children. Geraldine, however, grows increasingly vindictive and destructive. Years later, she ends up back in Northern Ireland where, Hayden fears, she may adopt ""the ideologies of terrorism."" Autistic Leslie uses withdrawal and irresponsibility to manipulate her parents. She becomes toilet-trained and learns to speak under Hayden's tutelage, on her way to becoming the ""charmingly amicable girl"" of later years. Hayden's greatest success is Leslie's mother, the wildly beautiful, seemingly arrogant but really insecure Ladbrook Considyne. At first insulting and hostile, Ladbrook suddenly offers herself as a teacher's aide. This helps her to stop drinking, to become more resourceful, communicative, and to reevaluate her destructive marriage. It is Ladbrook who draws Shemona from her self-imposed silence, who hones another student's mathemathical skills via construction of a miniature castle, and who holds the fort after Geraldine nails her own hand to the floor. Ladbrook later returns to physics, remarries, and gives birth to a second--normal--child. Hayden's techniques boil down to empathy, intuition, resourcefulness, determination, and common sense; in practice they provide an invaluable model for parents of emotionally dysfunctioning children and for educators of all stripes.