Compelling, well written, and extremely moving.

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BEAUTIFUL CHILD

THE STORY OF A GIRL TRAPPED IN SILENCE AND THE TEACHER WHO REFUSED TO GIVE UP ON HER

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 story takes 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.

Pub Date: Aug. 20, 2002

ISBN: 0-380-81339-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2002

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THE ABOLITION OF MAN

The sub-title of this book is "Reflections on Education with Special Reference to the Teaching of English in the Upper Forms of Schools." But one finds in it little about education, and less about the teaching of English. Nor is this volume a defense of the Christian faith similar to other books from the pen of C. S. Lewis. The three lectures comprising the book are rather rambling talks about life and literature and philosophy. Those who have come to expect from Lewis penetrating satire and a subtle sense of humor, used to buttress a real Christian faith, will be disappointed.

Pub Date: April 8, 1947

ISBN: 1609421477

Page Count: -

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1947

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Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.

COLUMBINE

Comprehensive, myth-busting examination of the Colorado high-school massacre.

“We remember Columbine as a pair of outcast Goths from the Trench Coat Mafia snapping and tearing through their high school hunting down jocks to settle a long-running feud. Almost none of that happened,” writes Cullen, a Denver-based journalist who has spent the past ten years investigating the 1999 attack. In fact, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold conceived of their act not as a targeted school shooting but as an elaborate three-part act of terrorism. First, propane bombs planted in the cafeteria would erupt during lunchtime, indiscriminately slaughtering hundreds of students. The killers, positioned outside the school’s main entrance, would then mow down fleeing survivors. Finally, after the media and rescue workers had arrived, timed bombs in the killers’ cars would explode, wiping out hundreds more. It was only when the bombs in the cafeteria failed to detonate that the killers entered the high school with sawed-off shotguns blazing. Drawing on a wealth of journals, videotapes, police reports and personal interviews, Cullen sketches multifaceted portraits of the killers and the surviving community. He portrays Harris as a calculating, egocentric psychopath, someone who labeled his journal “The Book of God” and harbored fantasies of exterminating the entire human race. In contrast, Klebold was a suicidal depressive, prone to fits of rage and extreme self-loathing. Together they forged a combustible and unequal alliance, with Harris channeling Klebold’s frustration and anger into his sadistic plans. The unnerving narrative is too often undermined by the author’s distracting tendency to weave the killers’ expressions into his sentences—for example, “The boys were shooting off their pipe bombs by then, and, man, were those things badass.” Cullen is better at depicting the attack’s aftermath. Poignant sections devoted to the survivors probe the myriad ways that individuals cope with grief and struggle to interpret and make sense of tragedy.

Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.

Pub Date: April 6, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-446-54693-5

Page Count: 406

Publisher: Twelve

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2009

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