Out of My Mind
by Sharon Draper
* * * * Stars (Great!)
Can you imagine being one of the smartest kids in school and not being able to speak? Melody is a bright, humorous eleven-year-old who just wants to fit in and be with other kids her age. But because she is in a wheelchair and cannot speak, she has been in a Special Education class, until now. Finally, she will get to see what it’s like for everyone else in school…sort of. There are many struggles as Melody works to find her voice. And even when she does have a voice, she still isn’t always heard. Out of my Mind will not only make you think twice the next time you see someone with a disability, but Melody simply reminds us that first impressions don’t always tell the whole story.
Reviewed by Michelle M., Youth Services Assistant
* * * Stars (Pretty good)
Melody was born with cerebral palsy, and while it confines her to a wheelchair, it does not affect her mind – she is super smart. Her parents and neighbor/caregiver Mrs. V. know (or at least suspect) this, but others treat Melody as if her physical disability is also a mental one. Melody finds it extremely frustrating, especially not being able to talk/express herself. When she learns about an assistive device that can give her the ability to speak/use all the words that are bottled up inside her, she and her aide, Catherine, share their research with Melody’s parents, who jump through all the hoops necessary to get Melody what she needs. When “Elvira” (the special device/computer) arrives, it is everything Melody has hoped for. With it, she’s able to participate in her inclusion classes, surprising everyone with her intelligence. She even tries out to be a member of the school’s Whiz Kid team (and makes it!) and competes in the televised state tournament.
Melody’s story has a lot of ups and downs. While having Elvira improves her life, her disability still sets her apart from other people who can’t ever see her as normal. There are so many things that will never be easy for her – like eating, moving around, and controlling her body. The way her team treats her in the end is just devastating, but Melody soldiers on. A somewhat disappointing and abrupt ending doesn’t really satisfy the dreams and hopes readers will have for Melody, but shows her resilience and determination. For upper elementary kids and middle school teens.
Reviewed by YA Librarian