What You Need to Know:|
• Out of My Mind gives readers the opportunity to see life from the perspective of Melody, a girl with Cerebral Palsy.
• Readers learn along with Melody as she prepares for the Whiz Kids competition.
• Being smart is "cool" to Melody and the other kids at her school.
• There is a comprehensive study guide on Sharon Draper's website.
• The Children's Book Committee of the Bank Street College of Education awarded it the Josette Frank Award and
named it one of the Outstanding Children's Books of 2011.
Melody is a special girl. It's not because she has Cerebral Palsy and is confined to a wheel chair. It's not even because she carries on in a world where communication is everything, and she can't speak a single word. Melody is special because of who she is on the inside, and that is the highlight of this story. Yes, Melody needs help to go to the bathroom and suffers countless indignities because her physical limitations are so severe, but while those realities may define her world, they do not define her. Readers get to know Melody and find that she is a funny, brilliant, strong, thoughtful, caring 5th grader who has the same worries and concerns as any girl her age. She also has a keen sense of observation and incredible insight, perhaps as a result of so many years being only on the receiving end of her interactions with others.
Because she can't easily express herself, Melody has little control over what other people think of her. Kids judge her, and say mean things. Teachers make assumptions, and cast her aside. Everyone seems to think that because she is physically impaired, she must be mentally challenged as well. Luckily, Melody has her family, her good friend, Mrs. Valencia, and an aide named Catherine, for support. In addition, she believes in herself, and she wants more out of her life. She may get sad, discouraged or hurt, but she doesn't let those feelings hold her back. She's determined to find a better way to communicate than a simple board with words that other people have chosen for her so she finds a way to convince Catherine to look for what she needs. They discover a computer called a "Medi-Talker" that finally gives Melody the chance to say what she's thinking. When the kids at school make fun of her, she comes up with snappy comebacks like "We all have disabilities. What's yours?" When her teacher says she can't participate in the Whiz Kids competition she proves to him that she's smart enough to be on the team. When the team leaves her behind, she is determined to show up at school anyway.
This book may change the way we see people with disabilities, but it should also change the way we look at everyone in our lives. Even children who are physically able to speak, are not always able to voice their thoughts and opinions. Each child is worth getting to know a little better. And first impressions are rarely an accurate indicator of what's really going on in someone's head. Another important point is that words matter. We shouldn't take them for granted. We should appreciate our ability to communicate and use it wisely. In addition to the valuable story and the engaging characters, the language used in this story is descriptive and fluid. It would make an excellent selection for any home or classroom bookshelf.
Sharon M. Draper
2012, 320 pages
Determination, Family Life, Friendship, Good Book Club Selection, Physical/Mental Differences, School
• How do you think you would cope if you were in Melody's situation?
• In what ways is Melody just like you? How is she different?
• Why does everyone seem to assume that Melody isn't smart?
• Have you ever misjudged someone based on first appearances?
• Did Melody's parents do enough for her? What more could they have done?
• Do you think that the Quiz Team left Melody behind on purpose? Why or why not?
• What can Melody do better than most people?
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