As in One Child (1980), Torey Hayden tells the story of a ragtag classroom of misfits in a way that is almost palpable. Here is: Boo, the autistic black seven-year-old who tears around the classroom in self-stimulated frenzy, discarding his clothes as he goes; Tomaso, the migrant Chicano kid who refuses to believe he witnessed the murder of a father he hopes will someday come for him; Claudia, the pregnant twelve-year-old with fantasies of caring perfectly for the perfect child; and most heartbreakingly, Lori, the bright and loving seven-year-old whose brain lesions from child abuse have left her unable to recognize written symbols, hence to read or write. Each, Hayden feels, has been dealt a cruel blow by an educational system dedicated to mainstreaming all but the most disabled; and her accounts of Lori's torture at the hands of a frustrated first-grade teacher are harrowing indeed. But Hayden's greatest feel is for the theatrical moment, the relived trauma that leads to violence or acute withdrawal: a teddy bear--reminder of long-ago deprivation--led Tomaso to threaten Hayden with scissors; the agony of being shamed in front of her peers sent Lori burrowing under a cabinet in a kind of breakdown. There are no easy answers here; an epilogue informs us that Lori never did learn to read, that Boo has only partially come out of his isolation--though, more encouragingly, Tomaso rescued four children from a burning building, and Claudia went back to her parochial school to graduate (as valedictorian!) after giving her baby up for adoption. But Hayden manages to convince us that her kids, no matter what their limitations, can be reached: a not inconsequential achievement. And she conveys the dedication of a professional who, without whimpering, pays for the ""eerie joy"" of working with the emotionally disturbed by losing a boyfriend who can't cope or compete. A thoughtful, reaching presentation.