One Child by Torey Hayden Book Review

One Child by Torey Hayden Book Review

One Child by Torey Hayden Book Review


I started reading One Child: The True Story of a Tormented Six-Year-Old and the Brilliant Teacher Who Reached Out over 20 years ago.  Working downtown Pittsburgh and taking the bus gave me time every day to read.  When I was about halfway through this book, however, my purse with the book in it was stolen at work.  After all these years I often thought about the book, wondering what happened to that little girl.  A week ago I found this book at the library and decided to read it again and finally find out how the story ended.


Sheila is a victim of child abuse. She lived in a migrant camp with her father after her mother abandoned her.  When Sheila was four-years-old, her mother left her on the side of a highway and fled to California with her younger son. Child abuse was apparent when Sheila was found and taken to the hospital.  She had multiple healed fractures and scars.  Custody then went to the father who was recently released from prison.

The newspaper reported that a six-year-old girl tied up and then burned a three-year-old neighborhood boy in woods near their houses.  The little boy was in critical condition.  The girl, Sheila, was taken into custody after the incident and then sent back home until an opening became available in the children’s unit at the state hospital.  She was causing trouble for a month at home, so authorities decided to enroll her in a classroom for severely disturbed children until she could be admitted to the state hospital.  The classroom teacher was Torey Hayden who described her experience with dealing with Sheila in One Child: The True Story of a Tormented Six-Year-Old and the Brilliant Teacher Who Reached Out.

Her father was very poor living in a migrant camp with no heat, plumbing, or electricity. Consequently, Sheila came to school every day with the same clothes on and without taking a bath.  She stank with body odor and urine.  After a while, Torey cleaned Sheila up a little before the other children arrived at school.  During this time, Torey had time to talk with Sheila alone to find out more about her situation.  It was their special time.  Sheila loved it and started opening up to her teacher.  Their relationship develops throughout the story.


I enjoyed the honesty in the book.  There are many things in this life that we will never know.  Torey tells us this in the book.  Sheila refused to do assignments that involved writing or drawing on paper.  When someone would give her paper, she would crumble it up and throw it, over and over again.  Sheila demonstrated how intelligent she was by doing verbal math or playing with blocks.  So it wasn’t because she didn’t know how.

I never learned whatever it was that motivated Sheila toward her paper phobia.  Later interactions with her over it and later comments that she made reaffirmed my belief that it was related to a fear of failure.  But I never really knew, nor did I feel a pressing need to know, only because so few human behaviors can be reduced to such simple cause-effect terms (p. 157)

Another mystery is why Sheila tied the little boy to a tree and burned him.  She never talked about it.  The book is told from Torey’s perspective, so we never really know or understand what Sheila is thinking.

Yet not once was the abuse incident brought up.  Not with the kids. Not with me or the other adults.  Never.  I did not suggest the topic either.  Although I seldom avoided issues, this one I felt instinctively I should leave alone, for no other reason than what my gut told me.  So we never discussed it.  I never found out what had been going through Sheila’s mind that cold November evening.



One Child: The True Story of a Tormented Six-Year-Old and the Brilliant Teacher Who Reached Out is a true story of child abuse which is heart-wrenching.  Torey saved Sheila’s life.  If Sheila would have been admitted to the State Hospital, she would most likely have been drugged and remained a mental patient the rest of her life.  I loved this book.  Although it is hard for me to hear about child abuse, I like happy endings.

Another great book, similar to this one, is Damaged and Bastard Out of Carolina.  They both are about child abuse and very good reads.


Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison

Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison


My mom introduced me to Bastard Out of Carolina: A Novel.  She had seen the movie on Lifetime and loved it so much that she told me about it and I then bought the book.  I saw some parts of the film a long time ago.  From what I remember the girl is beaten and raped continuously by her dad and her mother watches and doesn’t do anything about it.  She believes her husband when he tells her that the girl made him mad and that it is the girl’s fault and she needed punishment.  The book, however, is different than the movie. This abuse does happen in the story, but it also includes so many other family dynamics.   Subsequently, I kept waiting for the bad stuff to come, but it never did.  Well, at least not as consistently as the abuse was in the movie.


Bone tells her life story in Bastard Out of Carolina: A Novel.  Her birth name is Ruth Anne but has been called Bone all of her life by her family.  The book starts with her birth.  Since Bone’s family did not name her father on her birth certificate, she was labeled a bastard in the state of South Carolina. This girl’s story starts from her birth and goes until she is almost thirteen years old.  She has a hard life growing up poor, but it is also a normal life for everyone that grew up around her and same kind of life that her aunts and uncle had too.

Bone had a younger sister and now has a step dad, which she calls Daddy Glen.  Bone’s mom, Anney, and Daddy Glen both worked but still didn’t make much money.  Growing up as ‘white trash’ in South Carolina was not easy.  Her family often moved because they were so poor that they could not afford the rent.  The family often had things repossessed from their homes.  All of her extended family was poor too.


One thing the family had was lots of love.  Bone would often spend time at her aunt’s houses for weeks at a time.  Her aunts and uncles loved to tell stories.  The family was always reminiscing about things like when the guys came to repossess everything from their house for nonpayment.   One story that the whole town repeated often was when her aunt threw everything out the window, including her underwear, and told them just to take it all.

Bastard Out of Carolina: A Novel exhibits many emotions. There is lots of love in the family, along with poverty, heartaches, and abuse.

Aunt Raylene chose never to get married nor have any children.  However, she wasn’t lonely at all and enjoyed her life.

“Well, for not birthing any, it sure feels like I’ve raised a crowd.  Seems like I’ve had somebody’s kids under my feet for years now.  An’t nobody in this family ever been selfish with their children.  Why, I’ve got up many a morning to find a porch full of young’uns somebody’s dropped off in the night.” (p. 189)


The only place Bone didn’t get love was from Daddy Glen.  He started beating her and touching her inappropriately. Anney knew what he was doing to her daughter.  But she took her husband’s side and told Bone to don’t make him mad.

“Mama thought that keeping me out of the house and away from Daddy Glen was the answer, that being patient, loving him, and making him feel strong and important would fix everything in time.  But nothing changed and nothing was really fixed, everything was only delayed.  Every time his daddy spoke harshly to him, every time he couldn’t pay the bills, every time Mama was too tired to flatter or tease him out of his moods, Daddy Glen’s eyes would turn to me, and my blood would turn to ice.” (p. 233)

Everyone is just trying to get through life the best they can.  Bone is always feeling angry.  She didn’t like being poor and moving all the time.  Also, Bone felt that she was a bad person and ugly, that is why Daddy Glen beat her.


I enjoyed the escape to this little girls life in Bastard Out of Carolina: A Novel.  Feelings I got from reading the book during that time period were sadness, happiness, love, and adventure.  This story is real life for some people.

If the book did just focus on the rape and beatings Daddy Glen did to Bone, I would have been angry the whole way through the book, as I was during the movie.  I would have had hatred towards the dad and angry with the mother for not saving her daughter.

I loved how the author took the readers to the 1950s and let us experience what life was like growing up poor during that time in the south.  My mother grew up in the 1950s, and as I was reading, I imagined what it was like for my mom growing up.  I wished I could have asked her about her childhood, compared to what was in the book.  Sadly, she died two years ago, so there is no more asking her questions.  The story gave me a glimpse of what it was like growing up poor in the 1950s as my mom did.

Another blog I wrote about child abuse was a book review of Damaged: The Heartbreaking True Story of a Forgotten Child.  I highly recommend this book.

Sting by Sandra Brown

Sting by Sandra Brown

Sting by Sandra Brown


Sting is a mystery novel about murder, kidnapping, and the FBI.  The reader never knows who to believe.  The story is narrated from different characters’ point of views which are all trying to figure out the truth.  There is also some twists in the book which makes it more intriguing because it keeps you wondering if there is going to be another shift in the story.


Billy Panella hires Mickey Bolden as a hit man to kill Jordie Bennett.    Mickey then employs another person, Shaw Kinnard, to help with the job, and for compensation, he will receive half the reward money.  Shaw eagerly accepts the invitation and rushes to Mickey’s location, after he finishes his current job of killing two men.  The action starts right away.  The two men are in a bar in Louisianna relaxing with some beers.  They’ve been following Jordie all day and were told to kill her the next day.  However, plans changed when Jordie walked into the bar.  Panella instructs them to kill her right there that night.

Mickey and Shaw leave the bar and waits in their car in the parking lot outside the bar.  As soon as Jordie leaves the bar to go to her car, Mickey hurries out of his car to kill Jordie.  But Shaw is faster and shoots and kills Mickey first.  And then he kidnaps Jordie.


Many different events are happening at the same time.  The author switches back and forth between the scenes and telling them from different characters’ perspectives.  Shaw received the call from Mickey on a Tuesday hiring him for the job.  Also that same day Jordie’s brother escapes from the FBI.  The FBI is searching for Josh, Jordie, Panella, and the stolen money.

The whole story stems from the Bennett-Panella fraud case that happened six months ago.  Josh Bennett and Billy Panella had teamed up to steal money from people by enticing with a fraudulent business deal.  They made $30 million.  The FBI is trying to find Panella and the money.  Josh became an informant for the FBI in exchange for safety in their protection program.

There are many stories to follow and mysteries to solve, along with figuring out who is telling the truth.  There is a little romance in the novel to make it more enjoyable.


Once I started reading Sting, I wanted to keep on reading.  It occupied my mind so much that as soon as I opened my eyes in the morning, I thought about the book and wanted to continue to find out how they got out of the situation the found themselves in now.  The different plot twists made it an enjoyable read.  After the first shift in the book, I anticipated more.  It is an easy read with the plot not being complicated.

Damaged by Cathy Glass

Damaged by Cathy Glass

Damaged by Cathy Glass

Damaged by Cathy Glass

Damaged: The Heartbreaking True Story of a Forgotten Child is a true story of an abused child written by Cathy Glass.  Cathy was Jodie’s foster carer and writes about the time she spent with the child.

“This book tells the true story of my relationship with one of these children, an eight-year-old-girl called Jodie.  I was her foster carer, and she was the most disturbed child I had ever looked after.”

I wanted to read this book because I love kids and feel sad when hearing about children child abuse.  The story is heartbreaking, but I like when someone comes into their life and saves them.  I can relate to the child and am always hoping for a happy ending.   It’s been a long time since I have read a book like this.  I used to read them all the time.


Jodie is removed from her home when she is eight years old because of suspected child abuse by her parents.  After being in five carers’ homes within four months, social services calls Cathy Glass to see if she would take Jodie and care for her.  Cathy has been a foster carer for twenty years now and has had success with all her foster children.  The social services surmised that if Cathy can’t help Jodie, then no one could.  Damaged: The Heartbreaking True Story of a Forgotten Child is Jodie’s story.

Since fostering agencies suggest that other children in the household should not be in the same age range as the foster child, Cathy’s home would be a perfect fit.  She has three other children at home, two of her own and another foster child.  Adrian, Paula, and Lucy who were all teenagers.  They tried to help out sometimes by playing with Jodie.


Jodie exhibited very challenging behavior the first day.  Soon after arriving at Cathy’s house, she has a violent temper tantrum.  Furthermore, if Jodie doesn’t get her way, she kicks people.  After the social workers leave, Cathy sees that the child had defecated in her pants and then placed her hands on it and spread it over her face.  That night she had cut herself with a knife that she brought from her former caregiver’s house.  She had blood all over her when Cathy found her.  It was and exhausting day

As time went on and the child felt secure and loved, she began revealing hurts and abuses that have happened to her.  Jodie displayed sexual acts with her doll and told Cathy that her daddy did things like that to her.   After two weeks living with Cathy, Jodie was comfortable enough to confide in her some of her dark secrets.



I could not put this book down until I finished it.  Every page revealed more about the horrendous abuse this child had to live through. I had to know if she was alright at the end.  It is a heart-wrenching story, but one that is true for so many children.  Anger raged through me as I was reading the book.  Every page I read, I hoped that Damaged: The Heartbreaking True Story of a Forgotten Child would have a happy ending.

If you love Lifetime movies, this book is perfect for you.

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