The New York Times

A tale of dark childhood abuse and torment

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 June, 2010, 12:00am

A Child Called 'It'
Dave Pelzer
Published by Orion Books
ISBN 9780752837505

David is a young boy who is in search of love from his mother. But instead he is beaten on a daily basis and is the victim of horrible punishments.

His two brothers - the trio call themselves the 'three musketeers' - get off lightly in comparison.

David's hero is his father, and at first his mother did not abuse David when his father was around. But, as time passes, even the presence of his father does not save him from the terrible daily treatment.

He is excluded from family outings, and by the time he reaches second grade, his mother begins starving him for long periods of time. She forces him to sleep in the basement with no blankets.

With nothing to eat at home, he begins to steal from students at school. When he is caught stealing from lunch boxes, the teachers innocently call his mother, not knowing that he will suffer even more after the call.

His mother forces him to vomit every day to make sure he hasn't stolen food from other students.

At the age of 10, his mother stabs him in the stomach and refuses to take him to the hospital, even when the wound becomes infected. He isn't considered the part of the family and is called 'it' by his mother.

David describes his youngest brother as his mother's 'Little Nazi', who has been brainwashed by her.

This heart-felt autobiographical story is well-written and fast-paced, making it difficult to put down. But it has also been controversial.

Pelzer has been accused of exaggerating the torment of his childhood, and some of his family members - notably in a story in The New York Times - denied that the abuse took place at all.

All the same, for many readers, it has been a wrenching but ultimately uplifting story of triumph over extreme adversity.