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Torey L(ynn) Hayden (1951-) Biography

Personal, Addresses, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Adaptations, Sidelights

Born 1951 in Livingston, MT; Education: Whitman College, B.A. (biology and chemistry), 1972; Eastern Montana College, M.S. (special education), 1973; doctoral study at University of Minnesota, 1975-79. Hobbies and other interests: Opera, classical theatre, classical music, ancient history, archaeology, farming, cosmology, physics.

Addresses

Agent—P. Ginsberg, Curtis Brown Associates, Inc., 10 Astor Place, New York, NY 10003.

Torey L. Hayden

Career

Writer and educator. Has worked as a special-education teacher for the emotionally disturbed, a university lecturer, a graduate lecturer, a research coordinator, a child psychologist, and a child-abuse consultant. Former archaeological site supervisor; sheep breeder.

Honors Awards

Christopher Award, 1981, for One Child; New York Times Public Library Books for the Teen Age selection, 1981, for One Child, and 1982, for Somebody Else's Kids; American Library Association Best Young-Adult Book selection, and School Library Journal Best Young-Adult Book selection, both 1983, both for Murphy's Boy.

Writings

One Child (nonfiction), Putnam (New York, NY), 1980.

Somebody Else's Kids (nonfiction), Putnam (New York, NY), 1981.

Murphy's Boy (nonfiction), Putnam (New York, NY), 1983.

The Sunflower Forest (fiction), Putnam (New York, NY), 1984.

Just Another Kid (nonfiction), Putnam (New York, NY), 1988.

Ghost Girl (nonfiction), Putnam (New York, NY), 1991.

The Tiger's Child (nonfiction), Scribner (New York, NY), 1995.

The Mechanical Cat (fiction), 1999.

Beautiful Child (nonfiction), HarperCollins Publishers (New York, NY), 2002.

The Very Worst Thing (fiction), HarperCollins Publishers (New York, NY), 2003.

Twilight Children: Three Voices No One Heard until a Therapist Listened (nonfiction), William Morrow (New York, NY), 2005.

Contributor to professional journals.

Adaptations

Murphy's Boy was adapted as a television movie titled Trapped in Silence, starring Marsha Mason, 1986; One Child, Somebody Else's Kids, and Murphy's Boy were adapted to audio cassette for the visually impaired.

Sidelights

Author and child advocate Torey L. Hayden described herself in an interview posted on her home page as "very active, very curious, and inclined to get into everything just to find out what it was like" as a child. "Also, I liked being different, so I didn't mind making a fool of myself. I liked being alone a lot because I had an extraordinary fantasy life." Hayden's vivid imagination has helped inspire several of her books for young readers, among them her fiction books The Mechanical Cat and The Very Worst Thing. In addition, her advocacy efforts have inspired works such as Twilight Children: Three Voices No One Heard until a Therapist Listened. An account of Hayden's experience in a juvenile psychiatric crisis unit, the book was praised by School Library Journal reviewer Lynn Nutwell for presenting, with "compelling grace and compassion," a realistic and "valuable perspective" on the crisis intervention field that would be valuable to "students considering career options."

Born in 1951 in Montana, Hayden was a fan of the original Star Trek television series, and as an adult she developed a keen interest in computers, learning how to both repair and build them. If she had not grown up to be a teacher and author, Hayden explained in her interview that she "would … have been an astrophysicist or a cosmologist."

As a teacher, much of Hayden's inspiration as an author has come from her work with young people, particularly students she has known and helped. In Ghost Girl she focuses on eight-year-old Jadie Ekdahl, a troubled girl who, when Hayden meets her, is electively mute: she is able to talk, but chooses not to. "Jadie might as well have been a ghost," Hayden wrote in the book; she talked to no one, and no one talked to her. To make matters worse, she had unusual behaviors, such as always walking hunched over, and drawing strange markings on her papers. Hayden has a special interest in children with elective mutism, and with her skills and knowledge she is finally able to convince Jadie to start talking. When the girl reveals horrifying stories of abuse and possible involvement in a satanic cult, Hayden is unsure of whether the girl's stories are true or new manifestations of serious psychological problems. After deciding to contact the authorities, Hayden's concerns are found to be justified, and Jadie is rescued from a terrible situation.

A reviewer in Books called Ghost Girl "fascinating," and Genevieve Stuttaford, writing in Publishers Weekly, remarked that "ultimately Jadie's is a success story, and a testament to the powers of caring and commitment." Also praising Hayden's book, a Kirkus Reviews critic observed that Ghost Girl is "Suspenseful, compelling, and offering welcome insights into troubled children and how a gifted and compassionate professional treats them."

In One Child Hayden describes the day-to-day occurrences in her classroom of emotionally disturbed children, "kids with whom nobody else wants to deal," as Bonnie J. Dodge described them in a review for English Journal. Included are a shy boy who speaks only to repeat weather forecasts; a child so abused by his parents that the beatings have caused brain damage; and Sheila, a violent, autistic, electively mute girl with a genius-level IQ. "The reader is left with a profound sense of respect and admiration for the courage, patience, and most of all, the love it takes to be such a special teacher," Dodge remarked.

As a sequel of sorts to One Child, The Tiger's Child picks up Sheila's story, following her through her teenage and adult years as Hayden continues to help the autistic genius adjust to the changing world around her. Sheila's early story is more fully told: she was pushed out of a car and abandoned on the side of the road by her mother at age four; her drug-addict father abused her; and she once set fire to a younger boy. When Hayden encounters Sheila in a clinical setting after a span of several years, the emotionally troubled girl is a fourteen-year-old punk rocker, sexually precocious, but still desperately in need of help. After a few months the two develop a shaky friendship outside of the professional arena. Hayden watches as Sheila ages and matures further; eventually, she graduates from high school and finds a job that offers her a stability and contentment she never had before. A Publishers Weekly reviewer called The Tiger's Child "an inspirational testament to the healing power of love," and remarked that "this authentic tearjerker resonates with drama." Nancy E. Zuwiyya, writing in Library Journal, observed that Hayden's "book is not only interesting as a biography of a seriously disturbed child but as a portrayal of a working psychologist." Readers "learn about the limitations on therapy and the slow, often painful process of healing," wrote Claire Rosser in Kliatt, while a Kirkus critic called The Tiger's Child "An effective chronicle of a relationship full of potholes that nonetheless brings both student and teacher further along the road to maturity."

Beautiful Child follows Hayden through another academic year with another class of "fascinating, difficult, and immensely appealing" special-needs children, wrote Francine Prose in O. The students include a boy with Tourette's syndrome, a girl who spouts sophisticated elliptical poetry when under stress, and a set of twins with the telltale signs of fetal alcohol syndrome. The "beautiful child" of the title is seven-year-old Wanda Fox, an "unwashed, smelly, drastically neglected girl," Prose noted, who is so steadfastly mute and disinterested that she is almost catatonic. Hayden wonders if Wanda is also deaf, or developmentally disabled in some way. "Though Hayden seems almost endless resourceful, dedicated, resilient, and patient, none of the tried-and-tested techniques developed in her career with special-needs children—singing, games, behavior modification, even physical force—succeed" with this child, Prose added. Hayden's narrative describing her experiences with these children "takes on a timeless quality," observed a Kirkus Reviews critic. "As well as representing all special-needs children, the students come into focus as individuals about whom the reader cares deeply." Throughout the book, Hayden "shares her own thoughts, worries, and strained relationship with a mismatched classroom aide, creating a rich tapestry of the dynamics of a group of special needs youngsters and the adults who try to help them," commented a Publishers Weekly reviewer, while David Carr, writing in Booklist, concluded that Beautiful Child "ultimately shows this kind of teaching to be the tireless embrace of the vulnerable by the devoted."

Hayden takes a break from her real-world experience to write the novel The Very Worst Thing. The only stable part of twelve-year-old David's life is his sister. Bounced from one foster home to another, David repeatedly finds himself the "new kid," ridiculed because of his stutter and academic problems. Worse, his sister is in juvenile hall. In a rage over his situation, David destroys an owl's nest, but regrets his action almost immediately. He takes the single remaining egg from the nest and raises the owl that hatches from it. When the owl ultimately declines in health due to being held in captivity, David learns about "losing something you love," according to a Kirkus Reviews critic. Calling Hayden's protagonist "a believable child with many obstacles to mount," the critic called The Very Worst Thing "a well-wrought problem novel for the younger set." While Faith Brautigam wrote in School Library Journal that "The hatching and development of the owl keep the story moving and help to compensate for some of the plot details that seem tacked on," she ultimately conceded David's story is "adequately told."

Hayden once told Something about the Author: "I don't remember when I first became interested in writing. It seems like it has been something that has been with me, been a part of me, for as long as I have memories, but I have a very clear recollection of when the magic of writing took hold. I was eight, a none-too-enthusiastic third-grader in Miss Webb's class.… I was supposed to be at my desk doing my reading workbook, but I wrote instead on the back of an old math paper. Miss Webb came down the aisle unexpectedly, caught me, and confiscated the story.

"That wasn't a particularly traumatic event. In fact, I forgot all about it until some days later when she was cleaning out her desk and found the story, which she returned to me.… Among all the memories of my childhood, that particular moment is one of the clearest. I remember the exhilaration of reading that story and finding it every bit as exciting to me as the day I wrote it. For the first time I discovered that, like a camera, words can capture the complexity, the beauty, the subtlety of life so precisely that one can return to them the next day, the next week, or years later and feel the experience they have created as powerfully as the moment it happened. That to me is magic of the first order.

"Writing remains an affair of the heart for me.… [and] each time I sit down to the typewriter to start a new book, I write it for me. I love the process of writing, the nudge and jiggle of words until that ripe moment when snap! the emotional photograph is taken and all the complex beauty of being human is captured.

"How did I come to write the books I did? In the case of the five nonfiction books, I think it was simply a desire to share my experiences, to open up to others a Together with his new foster mother, eleven-year-old David gains a sense of security and self-confidence as he helps to hatch and raise a baby owl. (Cover illustration by Michele Amatrula.) world that most people do not encounter firsthand and, if I'm honest, to open minds. All the stories told in these books are true; all the characters in them exist. They did the hard part by living; I did the easy part by writing about it."

On her home page, Hayden offered the following advice to young writers: "Know that only you can write your own story. No one else can teach you how. They can teach you the mechanics of writing, like grammar and punctuation, but only you will have your particular style. So, while it is all right to read lots of books to see how other authors write or to take creative writing classes or listen to writers speak, let your own style develop."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, August, 2002, David Carr, review of Beautiful Child, p. 1896.

Books, March, 1992, review of Ghost Girl, p. 20.

English Journal, September, 1993, Bonnie J. Dodge, review of One Child, p. 96.

Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 1991, review of Ghost Girl, p. 377; January 1, 1995, review of The Tiger's Child, p. 47; May 15, 2002, review of Beautiful Child, p. 717; May 15, 2003, review of The Very Worst Thing, p. 751.

Kliatt, July, 1996, Claire Rosser, review of The Tiger's Child, p. 27.

Library Journal, March 15, 1984; January 15, 1995, Nancy E. Zuwiyya, review of The Tiger's Child, p. 122; July, 2002, Terry Christner, review of Beautiful Child, p. 94.

Los Angeles Times, April 24, 1980.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, May 26, 1991, review of Ghost Girl, p. 8.

New York Times Book Review, May 4, 1980; April 26, 1981; March 6, 1988.

O, June, 2002, Francine Prose, review of Beautiful Child, p. 73.

Publishers Weekly, March 22, 1991, review of Ghost Girl, p. 66; January 16, 1995, review of The Tiger's Child, p. 448; May 13, 2002, review of Beautiful Child, p. 58.

School Library Journal, October, 2003, Faith Brautigam, review of The Very Worst Thing, p. 166; July, 2005, Lynn Nutwell, review of Twilight Children, p. 133.

Voice of Youth Advocates, February, 1991, Pam Spencer, review of Just Another Kid, pp. 347-348.

Washington Post, May 8, 1981; July 6, 1984; April 19, 1988.

Washington Post Book World, August 15, 1982.

Wilson Library Bulletin, February, 1985.

ONLINE

Torey Hayden Home Page, http://www.torey-hayden.com(July 15, 2005).*

Additional topics

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