Of all the books my students read in our 4th and 5th grade book club this fall, Out of My Mind was their favorite. Sharon Draper, who has a disabled daughter herself, tells a story of a disabled girl who is constantly underestimated and misunderstood but who is extraordinarily smart and determined.
Melody is 10 years old and has cerebral palsy. Her disability affects her in many ways. Melody is unable to walk and cannot balance when she sits up. She sits, strapped into a wheel chair. She can’t feed herself, cloth herself or go the bathroom by herself. Sometimes, she can’t control her body movements. Far more frustrating for Melody, though, is the fact that she can’t talk. But, don’t feel sorry for Melody. Melody is brilliant. In fact, she has a photographic memory. If people knew how smart she was, they might not underestimate her so much.
Imagine knowing what’s happening around you and wanting to speak, but being unable to speak. No one around her, not even her parents, fully understand how much Melody knows or what she thinks about. It might make you go out of your mind, like a fish in a tiny fish bowl who just can’t stand those glass walls anymore.
At school, Melody is placed in a room for children with disabilities. Unfortunately, there, having disabilities means that people also think you’re stupid and try to teach you the alphabet in third grade.
Luckily, Melody has champions who fight for her. Her parents are constantly trying to explain that Melody is an intelligent child who needs people to teach her. Ms. V., Melody’s neighbor who has taken care of her since she was a baby, while Melody’s parents work, needs no convincing about Melody’s intelligence. She works with Melody, developing word cards so that Melody can communicate. Catherine, Melody’s aide at school, works with Melody to find a machine that can help her speak.
When Melody gets her machine, she finds her voice. It is an amazing gift. Everyone learns just how incredibly bright Melody is. Melody has opportunities that she couldn’t have dreamed of the year before, including joining mainstream classrooms.
This book does such a wonderful job of explaining Melody’s condition and limitations in away that doesn’t let you feel sorry for Melody. Draper’s writing gives Melody an authentic voice that really speaks to students. Melody’s disappointments and frustrations are easy to imagine. Her victories make you feel great.
With great characters and plot twists right until the end, this book will really draw you in. Don’t miss it! For more information, please check out this interview with Sharon Draper about this book on her web-site. http://sharondraper.com/bookdetail.asp?id=35