One Child Book Summary

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The book I will be reviewing is ‘One Child’, written by Torey Hayden, which is based on a heart touching true story. The author, Torey Hayden, really did an excellent job in showing how a teacher must be willing to do more than just be a teacher. The main topic of the story is about Miss Torey and Sheila that forms an unbreakable, unique, special bond and impact each other for the better. Sheila is a young, bright, 6-year-old girl that faces tremendous difficulties and challenges in her life and with that said a victim of child abuse. Sheila’s mother abandoned her when she was just 4 years old and left her on the highway and only took her brother, Jimmie, with to California. She lived in a migrant camp with her father (Hayden, T., 1980, page 20). She had unique characteristics like never talking, crying or showing any emotion. Torey Hayden tries to save this girl with dark problems from the hole she is getting dragged into.

For her whole life so far this little intelligent girl only knows rejection (her mother), abuse (her uncle Jimmy and her father that hits her), abandonment but has learnt from one school year how to love and be love, to trust, deal with all her anger issues in a civilized way and just to be a normal six year old girl.

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One time she was not the victim but the ‘attacker’ and burned down a 3-year-old boy in their area (Hayden, T., 1980, page 3). After this terrible incident she was taken into child custody to get a place in the state hospital children unit because she was seen as crazy and a threat to society. There was unfortunately no open unit so she was sent back home but with her history of course they should have expected her to not be a good girl back home. Authorities signed her up at a special school until a unit opened.

She had a poor upbringing with her dad being an alcoholic and not really caring about her. He never showed any interest or emotion towards Sheila. She arrived at school every single day with the same blue denim overall and was never clean. Torey then decided to take matter into her own hands and cleaned Sheila 30 minutes before school started. This was not Torey’s duty, but her willingness to help and connect with her students. “The next morning, I came ready for action. Armed with three bath towels, a bar of soap, shampoo, and a bottle of baby lotion” (Hayden, T., 1980, page 56).

This short 30 minutes was not just cleaning and pampering time but it was their special and bonding time. With Sheila’s time alone with Torey she got very comfortable, trusted her and opened up more each day. Every single day had a routine and the mornings started with group discussion. “The children all came from such chaotic and disrupted homes that we needed something to reunite us each morning after being apart” (Hayden, T., 1980, page 18).

Sheila refused to do assignments which included working on paper, such as mathematics or drawing, not because she did not know how to, because throughout the book we can see that she is a very clever child. “There was no score to measure Sheila’s score on the PPVT. For her age group the scale stopped at 99, which translated into a 170 IQ. Sheila had a score of 102” (Hayden, T., 1980, page 52). “I think she might have this paper phobia because she is scared of failure and she thinks that people will leave if she failed” (Hayden, T., 1980, page 16).

I recommend this book to every single upcoming or present teacher to just reevaluate why they are doing the profession they are doing or want to do it. Teaching is something so much deeper than just learning and teaching students and this book shows us the deeper meaning. This is a very inspiring and motivational book that will thrive you to be the best possible teacher and to realize that there will be children in your classroom that does not have the best background. The one strategy that I will steal from Torey is to connect with each student and form strong relationships where they can trust me. This book was a very great lesson that I will keep close to my heart and always remember. I do not only recommend it for upcoming teachers but for anyone and everyone! It teaches us how selfless we should be and shift our focus to over people when we see the need.

I like that the book is very honest and raw because it’s daily real issues in our communities that children face. The storyline of ‘One Child’ written by Torey Hayden is very moving because it is difficult to hear things as sexual abuse and children dealing with difficult circumstances. It’s a very touching deep story of Torey and Sheila’s journey together and how a teacher can influence a difficult child. In this book I also learned that there is no such thing as a difficult child but only a child that have reason because they have problems.

The book consists out of out 20 chapters. Some of these chapters will make you angry, some of them will make you cry and others will make you feel happy and jolly for Sheila’s sake. With a very happy ending, Sheila was finally ready to overcome her very dark sketchy past and release that she is a normal girl that has so much potential. ‘One child’ is based on hope, trust and courage. A very lost broken 6-year-old girl finally let down her guard and opened up to a new world full of joy, discovery and happiness.

Most books do not hold my attention at all, but this one did a hundred percent. ‘One child’ has such a powerful storyline and it is really worth the read and your time!

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One Child Book Summary. (2022, December 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 15, 2024, from
“One Child Book Summary.” Edubirdie, 15 Dec. 2022,
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