HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: For the Love of Ann: Based on a Diary by Jack Hodges
Author: James Copeland
Cover Illustrator: Gary Watson
Publisher: Ballantine Books, republished in 1976
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Teens and adults
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Copeland, James. For the Love of Ann: Based on a Diary by Jack Hodges (published in 1973 by Arrow Books Ltd.; republished in 1974 by Ballantine Books, a division of Random House Inc., New York City, NY). Ann Hodges was born on Jan. 10, 1952, to Jack and Ivy Hodges of Mayor St. in Salford, England, near Manchester. She had an older brother, Leonard, and later a younger brother Leslie. Shortly after her birth, a door was left open and the midwife reported that Ann became “blue with cold,” though medical experts now believe that she had a paroxysm of breathing. As the girl grew older, her parents began to notice that she had serious problems—not looking people in the eye, being non-verbal, drinking only from a bottle until age eight, repetitive behaviors such as continual rocking, and irrational fears. They took her to all kinds of doctors, and finally when she was six one of them said, “I am so very sorry to have to tell you this, but I’m afraid that our tests show that it is extremely unlikely that your daughter will ever be educated, or for that matter, that she will ever be able to recognize you as her parents,” calling the girl schizophrenic and a psychopath.
Jack and Ivy did not accept this diagnosis and refused suggestions to put their daughter into a mental home, so they began the process of trying to educate and train her themselves. Jack kept a diary of everything they did over the next fourteen years which formed the basis for this book. How did Ann respond? What eventually happened with her? The Hodgeses later learned that Ann suffered from autism, a condition, very poorly understood in that day, of children who cannot communicate with the outside world and have sensory processing issues even though in many cases they have perfect brains, sight, and hearing. Even today, no one knows the cause for certain. Author James Copeland, a Scottish journalist who used Jack’s record to create this account, calls it “a story of love and devotion, the like of which I had never heard before.” There is no bad language, but a few references to dancing do occur.
The biggest objection which some people have with the book is the supposed “cruelty” and “abuse.” There was a short period of time when Ann’s parents found that the only way which they could get through to her was by slapping her. So far as I could tell from the reading, nothing that was physically damaging was done but it was more like a parent spanking a small child. Of course, many people today consider any striking of a child for any reason, or for that matter even issuing a stern “no” in rebuke, as cruel abuse. Yet Copeland points out, “In fact, they had unwittingly stumbled on what is now considered an effective method of training autistic children—reward and punishment.” Also, we need to remember that this story comes from a time when autism was not well known and before many of the support services that are available today existed. Several parents of autistic children have said that reading the book gave them hope without concluding that it necessarily promoted “violence.” Anyone wanting to gain a better understanding of autism would do well to read it.