Mar 9 2004
Re: David Pelzer: A Child Called "It" |
WHY WRITE THIS?
The reason I wanted to write this is because stories like this rip my heart out and you hear more and more everyday. I can’t say it any better than Glenn A. Goldberg who is former Director of the California Consortium for the Prevention of Child Abuse:
“David Pelzer’s story must be told so that we can mobilize Americans to create a country where it won’t hurt to be a child. Millions of our children, our most precious natural resource, are being victimized by a tragic and unconscionable epidemic of child abuse and neglect. Both the level and intensity of child maltreatment have increased dramatically in the last decade. David’s story will help people understand that our child abuse crisis goes far beyond excessive spanking. Each year hundreds of thousands of helpless children are being brutalized and tortured physically, emotionally and sexually.
Each act of child abuse reverberates into the future; when a child gets hurt, we may all suffer the consequences. David Pelzer is a triumphant survivor of his childhood abuse, and his story is an inspiration to all of us. We must never forget, however, the tens of thousands of other children who didn’t survive their ordeals, and the millions who are still suffering. The only cure for child abuse is its prevention; and it is my fervent hope that this book will help build our growing movement of people working to prevent child abuse in all its forms.”
ABOUT THIS BOOK
This will be a two part book review. The book(s) is “A Child Called ‘It’ and The Lost Boy” by Dave Pelzer. It is two complete books in one volume published in 1995. This review is on A Child Called “It”. Please stay tuned for a review of The Lost Boys. Don’t worry, it won’t take long because I can NOT put this book down!
CHAPTER ONE - THE RESCUE
This book walks right up to you and goes WHOP! By the second page of the first chapter, I was fighting back tears. Written in first person as a fifth grade boy, Dave describes a typical day at home. This poor child was starved to half to death. If he was lucky, he got his brother’s leftover cereal bowl in between doing the dishes and being beaten by his mother.
Your heart goes out to this poor boy who’s getting ready for school in the same clothes he’s had for years. Mom only let’s him wear one shirt, one pair of pants, shoes…he mentions that he stinks but he doesn’t say if he was allowed to bathe, or if she just refused to wash his clothes.
On March 5, 1973, he has to report to the principal’s office for being late for school. He has to explain yet more bruises by telling the lie Mom said to tell them this time. They know better; he used that excuse last week.
They couldn’t take it any longer. A policeman comes to talk to Dave. The teachers and principal try unsuccessfully to hold back their tears and hug him goodbye. They take the poor child, who thinks he’s going to jail for being bad, to the San Mateo Juvenile Department.
Dave is free.
CHAPTER TWO - GOOD TIMES
Chapter two reflects on the time when Dave had a good childhood and a sweet, loving family. The woman he describes is wonderful, but you already hate her from the first chapter, so it isn’t very convincing. However, at one time Mom cooked wonderful picnics, planned elaborate vacations and gave her three sons extravagant Christmas’.
They seemed like the picture-perfect family.
CHAPTER THREE - BAD BOY
As time goes by, Dave describes drastic changes in his mother. You realize that she is truly an extremely sick woman.
When standing in the corner doesn’t become enough, Dave received what he called the mirror treatment. After getting his head knocked in to the mirror, he had to repeat ‘I’m a bad boy’ repeatedly while looking in the mirror, then stand with his nose to the mirror until bedtime.
School was a haven for him. He made friends easily and ‘got more smiley faces than anyone else’.
One day, he came home from school and mom informed him that because he was such a disgrace to the family, he had to repeat the first grade.
Mom got a letter one day from the North Pole saying that David had been a bad boy and couldn’t have anything for Christmas. Later, Mom and Dad got in a fight because he bought Dave a couple of coloring books.
Mom doesn’t abuse the other boys or play her wicked games while Dad is around. As Dave describes other horrid forms of his abuse, you wonder why dad doesn’t notice anything is happening. David’s father seems very loving and gentle but notices nothing of his wife’s bizarre, vile abuse.
The only hint to this question in chapter three is when she’s yelling at Dave and calls his father a lousy drunk. That was one of the nicer thing she says to him.
She seems to have a bit of a drinking problem herself.
It doesn’t tell how it was explained to Dave’s father why he had to repeat first grade. It’s obvious that he wasn’t told the truth.
After an episode that is too graphic and horrid to describe for a general audience, Dave makes the decision to survive. He will no longer give this woman the pleasure of begging for mercy. He will no longer act like a little whimpering baby. David was fighting for his life and he was in the first grade.
CHAPTER FOUR - THE FIGHT FOR FOOD
The details of the abuse this child undergoes really is too vile to put in this article. This woman is so mean and vicious to this child, you begin to doubt it’s validity. Then you realize that someone could not possibly make up such horrific stories.
Not being able to eat more than left over cereal, Dave began stealing food from school. He gets caught and when the school calls his mother, he gets beaten profusely.
This cycle continues until the kids put their lunch boxes where they couldn’t be gotten into. This part sent up a red flag for me. Think about it. A kid is continuously stealing food. Doesn’t that tell you something is wrong? This child goes to school in the same clothes everyday, multiple bruises all over his body, and he’s starving to death. Why isn’t anyone doing anything about this?
This child is a servant. He does all the housework, scrubbing floor on hands and knees.
He sleeps on a cot in the basement.
Family members are not aloud to acknowledge him and must refer to him as ‘the boy’.
He isn’t considered good enough to ride to school. Mom takes the other boys in her car, while Dave must run to school. If he walks, he’ll be late.
He gets caught eating out of the trash, so mom starts putting bad meat and ammonia in the trash can.
As punishment for eating, Dave is forced to eat spoonfuls of ammonia and Clorox bleach on several occasions.
This child is constantly humiliated and tortured by his mother. No one notices.
The question about Dave’s father is answered very clearly during a horrific ordeal one night. David had snuck into the school cafeteria to steal food. This child was so hungry, he ate frozen hot dogs and tater tots.
Somehow, mom found out he did this. He was welcomed home by a punch in the stomach. In her horrendously violent way, she made him vomit the frozen food he had eaten. When he finished, Mom collected a sample of the mess to ‘show Father what you did’.
Dad came home and tried to talk her out of it. They got in a huge fight. Unfortunately for Dave, Mom won.
Yes, he was forced to eat his vomit.
Your hatred builds toward these pathetic excuses for parents. When you don’t think you could resent them anymore, guess what? She has another baby. Her fourth son named Russell.
Dave escapes his torture through determination and daydreaming. He constantly imagines he’s a super hero, or just has a family that love him. His will to live is tremendous. I don’t think I could ever be so strong.
CHAPTER FIVE - THE ACCIDENT
By the age of ten, Dave knows his mother’s patterns. It is during the summer, and he’s averages a meal every three days.
The abuse is worse than ever, he Dave insists that mom is perfectly aware of the things she is doing.
At this point, it becomes clear that she is trying to kill her child.
Dave must do his chores now within a certain time limit.
One day, he apparently did not get the dishes done within the twenty minutes allotted. When all is said and done, Mother stabbed him with a knife in the stomach. The baby, Russell sat in Mom’s lap while this was taking place chanting, ‘The boy is gonna die’ repeatedly.
Mother did not really acknowledge her son’s wound. She patched up the cut with some gauze and gave him thirty minutes to finish the dishes.
The boy goes to father and tell him that he was stabbed, expecting to be taken to the hospital. He asked Dave nonchalantly why she stabbed him. He replied that she was going to kill him if he didn’t finish the dishes in time.
Dad told him he should go finish the dishes and he wouldn’t mention to Mother that Dave told on him.
The child is so weak, and in so much pain, it took him an hour and a half to finish the dishes. Apparently, mom gave up and started drinking at this point, because dad somehow musters up the decency to help him put the dishes away.
Mother then allowed him to go outside and play in the driveway for a few minutes. The highlight of this child’s life at that time was playing with a sparkler firecracker.
Later, mom brought him some bread and water and, without emotion, slightly tends to his severe wound that had been bleeding profusely.
The next morning, he woke up with blood everywhere. Mother ordered him to clean himself up and get started on his chores.
As much as he had hoped that his parents would stop torturing him, nothing had changed.
CHAPTER SIX - WHILE FATHER IS AWAY
After the knife incident, Dad pretty much stops coming home. He’s either at work or in a bar most of the time. You can tell that Dad hates what is going on, he’s just too much of a drunk weasel to do anything about it. Sadly, he tell Dave about how someday they are going to escape together. At least this kid is looking forward to something in his life, even if it is false hope.
With Dad out of the picture, Mom escalates even more out of control. You read how much this woman (I use that term so very loosely…) enjoyed what she was doing.
For example, he hasn’t eaten in six day. He was so weak, so could barely move. After finishing his chores one night, Mom put cold leftovers on a plate before him. She yells at him he has two minutes to eat.
Perfectly happy with those two minutes, he picks up his fork to dig in. Just before he got the food into his mouth, mom snatches the food, puts it down the garbage disposal, and informs him it’s too late.
He wondered the same thing you wonder when you read this book. Why?
Needless to say, this child became filled with extreme hate. Not just his mother, he hated everyone because they had so much more than he did. He hated family and neighbors and everyone else around that ignored his obvious condition.
She does other things that make you wonder what world these people lived in, not to have anyone notice. He was made to mow lawns. He was giving quotas on how much he was to make HER. He would steal money just to earn her impossible goals.
One Christmas, he got a pair of roller skates. He couldn’t believe he got a X-mas present! It was just another sinister act. He is made to roller skate outside in the cold without a jacket on. He skates for hours on end. No one notices. I also wondered how on earth he could possibly roller skate. I find it hard to believe he can walk…
Horrid abuse become even more sinister, if you can believe that. One day, she hears about something on TV and she wants to see what happens. She gives Dave 30 minutes to clean the bathroom. In a bucket, she places a mix of bleach and ammonia. Walks out, closes the door, and leaves him in there for thirty minutes.
It was called the gas chamber and she did it often.
During the last month of summer something happens. Mom tells him she is tired of the life they are leading and she wants to change. They hug and she promises him she’ll start being a good mother. He got to change into new clothes he got for Christmas but wasn’t allowed to wear. He ate, took a warm bath, and got to play for two prized days.
Right up until the lady from child welfare came to visit.
Dad finally leaves. He wishes the kid well and leaves him in these conditions.
CHAPTER SEVEN - THE LORD’S PRAYER
Chapter seven looks back on Dave’s spirituality in the days of his abuse; or should I say the lack thereof. He stopped his dreaming and hoping for something better. He wished himself, and everyone around him, dead.
He no longer enjoys school. There, the kids pretty much took up where Mom left off. He looks back on times that the kids around him seemed to exemplify what Mom had taught him…He was nothing. He was an It.
To me, the saddest, most horrifying part of the book is when the school chooses the title he made up for the school newspaper. His teacher wrote Mom a glorious note telling her what a good job Dave had done. He was so excited, just knowing that Mom would be proud of him for once.
What she told him sent chills down my spine:
“Get one thing straight you little S.O.B.! There is nothing you can do to impress me! Do you understand me? You are a nobody! An It! You are nonexistent! You are a bastard child! I hate you and I wish you were dead! Dead! Do you hear me? DEAD!”
After that episode, Dave wished he were dead too. He figures that perhaps if he actually did something bad, maybe Mom would finally just finish him off.
His rebellion made things worse still. Even the other children were allowed to abuse him.
David prays that mother have mercy upon him and just hurry and kill him.
EPILOGUE AND TESTIMONIALS
The epilogue of this book tells of him as an adult, taking his son to the ocean. It tells of his extreme appreciation of the smallest things in life. It isn’t very emotional, but it makes you feel good seeing how he overcame his horrid past.
The testimonials in the book gives his story more validity. The first is by Dave himself and his perspectives on child abuse.
He points out that one out of five children in America are abused in some fashion.
He tells how the abuse causes a domino affect for generations to come. Most of these abused children either mad1 one day and go on a killing spree; others just pass down the violence to their own children.
He broke the cycle, and so can anyone else, given the proper support and determination.
Other one page testimonies are from Steven Ziegler, one of Dave’s teachers and Valerie Bivens, a social worker. Both speak about their experience with Dave and how proud they are of his miraculous recovery from his life of hell.
A Child Called It is a powerful, sad, disturbing story. I am completely unable to understand how anyone could treat any form of life this way. However, David’s recreation his life is vivid and colorful.
It is my fear that this could become a textbook for other abusers. Several times during the book, Dave explains that Mom got ideas from TV and such, and utilized this knowledge for her sinister acts. If people are looking for new and unusual ways to torture someone, it horrifies me that they might use this book for that purpose.
The book leaves a lot of questions to be asked.
What happened to Mother? Does she do any jail time for her crimes?
What happens to Dad? Does David ever see him again?
Where does Dave go after he is taken away from home?
What is the condition of his health? He was starved, fed poisonous substances, and exposed to toxic gases. He was stabbed in the abdomen and received no medical attention. I find it almost impossible to believe he’s a very healthy adult.
If the second part of this story wasn’t included in this book, I would be terribly disappointed. I would rate it very low for incompleteness.
I hope to answer all of these questions for you in the second part of this review on ‘The Lost Boy”.