A Summary of the Book "A Circle of Children" by Mary MacCracken

by Scott Cornell

"A Circle of Children" is an autobiographical book from author Mary MacCracken. It was first published in March 1975 by Signet and made into a television movie in 1977. MacCracken's story is an inspiring, dramatic tale of how, while working as a teacher, she was able to connect with several of her emotionally disturbed students.


Recently divorced and wanting to stay busy, Mary MacCracken volunteered at a school for autistic children. There, she listened to and connected with the children on a much deeper levels than most teachers would. She discovered that many of the children were angry, confused, hurt and lonely. "A Circle of Children" is the story of how MacCracken helped find the individual keys to free the children of these feelings.


Author Mary MacCracken is also the main character. She's portrayed as a caring individual, as evidenced by her desire to volunteer at a school for autistic children. Another character in the book is the special education teacher, Helga, to whom MacCracken must prove herself. The teacher sees MacCracken as an annoyance who doesn't know what she's doing when working with the children. Finally, there are the children whom MacCracken helps, notably Brian O'Connell.


There are several themes portrayed throughout the book. One is how people cope with marriage and divorce. MacCracken coped by volunteering to stay busy and help others. The book also explores student and teacher relationships and how involved a teacher should be in a student's life. It tackles the issue of whether this involvement should be personal and/or emotional. Finally, the book demonstrates the potential of special needs children if teachers have patience with them as they learn.

Screen Adaptaions

"A Circle of Children" was made into a television movie in 1977. A sequel film, "Lovey: A Circle of Children Part II," was made in 1978. Mary MacCracken was played by actress Jane Alexander. Rachel Roberts played the role of Helga. Though they were made-for-television movies, they were received well. According to IMDb.com, "A Circle of Children," as of 2011, out of 40 user votes, received an 8.2 out of a possible 10 stars.