These books are just so emotionally draining. Not because of the kids themselves; their stories are sad, but the way they handle their lives, often with such positivity, is amazing. No, what exhausts me is the fact that there are such horrible people in the world, that would do such horrible things to children.
The author, Torey Hayden, is a teacher of special -needs children; in some cases, that means giving extra homework help to a kid struggling with math, but in other cases (as in this book ) it means trying to reach out to a kindergartener with autism, or helping a 10 year old manage severe anger issues, or providing a safe learning space for a pregnant 12 year old. A pregnant. 12 year old. Whose parents refuse to discuss her pregnancy or her post-delivery plans.
The majority of my anger and frustration centers around the story of Lori, a young girl who, as a result of child abuse, has suffered brain damage. In most regards she's a typical little girl, but she's physically unable to read; her brain is unable to recognize the different letters and words. She comes to Torey's class for extra help, mainly because her main 1st grade teacher is an idiot who doesn't understand the difference between someone who's being lazy and not trying, and someone who has a physical freaking handicap and cannot freaking do reading, no matter how hard she tries! This idiot teacher makes Lori stand in front of her entire class and read; when she can't read a book, her teacher moves to a lower level book and tries again, gradually moving to ever lower skill levels, the entire time berating Lori for her "stupidity" and "laziness", until Lori vomits from nerves and runs from the room.
While reading this book, I had to constantly remind myself that it was taking place in the 1970s, when special education was a completely different animal. Mainstreaming, or involving special - needs children in the regular classroom as much as possible, was apparently a big thing, and kids who couldn't keep up were (apparently ) out of luck.
When I read these books from Karen's list, I try to think how she would have reacted to them. I feel pretty sure that she would have been yelling at the 1st grade teacher and throwing the book in disgust. And crying a little when Tomaso has a breakthrough, or when Boo, the autistic boy, interacts with Torey. I know that's what I was doing.