This Blog is Dedicated to our dear friend Karen.
When she left this life she left a hole in our hearts as well as several to be read books.
We, her friends, will read these books for her.
This blog will be a sort of book club for us to post our thoughts and feelings about the stories and feelings we have of Karen while we read.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

#259 Just Another Kid by Torey L. Hayden

Just Another Kid

In each of Hayden's books (or at least the ones that take place in a classroom), you're introduced to the kids, and all of them have their specific issues; throughout the book, Hayden talks about helping each one of them improve (as much as they can). But there's always one kid that the crux of the story focuses on, and so I started this book trying to identify which kid is the "just another kid" of the title. We're introduced to Leslie, a barely functioning, possibly autistic little girl, along with her parents, but Leslie's not "the kid". We're introduced to Mariana, a precocious, overly sexualized girl, and Dirkie, an autistic boy, but neither of them is "the kid"; later on, we add Geraldine and Shemona, two sisters, and their cousin, Shamie, all of whom are refugees of "The Troubles" in Northern Ireland, but none of which is "the kid". Eventually, Leslie's mother begins helping Hayden in the classroom as an aide, and we learn that she is the kid - she and Hayden begin developing... if not a friendship, then at least a work-based camaraderie and she begins revealing to Hayden some of the serious emotional issues she (and her husband and Leslie) are working through.

This is another one of the better books written by Hayden; I seem to enjoy her books that are based in classrooms better, because (in part) they don't rely so much on her hit-or-miss method of child psychology. There's a structure to a classroom that precludes just sitting around waiting for something to happen, which sometimes appears to be Hayden's style of therapy. It's also fun and interesting to see how these kids, all at different levels of maturity and development and intellect, interact with each other. I'm surprised, again, by how physical Hayden and the other adults are with the kids, picking them up by their collars or (essentially) tossing them into the "timeout" chair. These are actions a present-day teacher would probably get sued over, but then, these books are set in the 1970s and 80s.

The ending is bittersweet, with an end-of-school-year picnic and an epilogue that gives a little information about what happened to (most of) the kids. I think my sister would have really liked this one, more than most of the other Hayden books, partly because of the interaction between Hayden and Ladbrooke (Leslie's mother).


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