Which words should I choose to. . . clothe her silent, uncommunicated thoughts?"" asks 13-year-old Caroline's teacher as she embarks on this story of a ""special"" child who cannot read or write and only occasionally utters a word. Unfortunately the words she does choose--sustenance, destiny, immobile, shatteringly ecstatic--express her own overrefined literary pretentions, not the confused gropings of a child vainly seeking clues and signals everywhere: in the eyes of her classmates, the shapes of plates on the dinner table, her own cells (""moving, dividing within me""), her dog (does he catch ""the scent of the past with its stores of messages, of memories?""), and in books, read to her by her ever-patient father, with their ""beckoning words. . . that are locked, unspeaking, in the silent pages."" Occasionally note is taken of Caroline's behavior--pounding her head against glass at the aquarium, dashing around the classroom in tears--which, in the context of her thoughts, effectively reminds us that she has her reasons, which no one else can remotely guess. But then it's back to the stale and fancy phrases, betokening a mind whose alienation from the world is in quite a different direction from Caroline's.