Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper

I wanted to take the time to share my views on a book I just finished this morning called Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper.  I was looking for books about differently abled kids (the term I prefer to use instead of disabled), and it popped up when I was browsing on my Kindle.  I downloaded a sample, fell in love immediately, and bought the book with an Amazon gift card.

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I fell in love with the narrator and protagonist, Melody Brooks, right away! She is eleven years old, and while she has Cerebral Palsy, she is still normal. She wants a best friend and to wear cool clothes. I also found some similarities with me. We’re both wickedly smart and have photographic memories. But she is unable to walk or talk because she has CP. I did not talk until I was four because I was born premature. I couldn’t imagine being unable to express myself like Melody!

I liked Melody’s next door neighbor Mrs. Violet Valencia, or Mrs. V too because she challenged Melody from the first day she baby sat her. Instead of giving her a toy, she tells her to roll over and get it, which she does, even though it takes some effort. She talks to her, reads to her, and helps her develop a way of communicating with her family. I also liked how she became Melody’s friend and mentor.

I felt bad for Melody’s school situation due to her being bored in special education classes (which seemed more like preschool to me). But I did like that Ms. Shannon, the fifth grade teacher, raised the bar as my mom says and challenged her students to do more than the previous teachers did.

When the H-5 (the special education classroom) kids are integrated into some regular classes a few days a week, Melody begins to blossom. She meets a friend named Rose, gets an aide named Catherine, learns to use her new Medi-Talk, which is like a tablet that helps her communicate more effectively with her family and classmates, and tries out for the Whiz Kids team, which is like Quiz Bowl or Brain Busters.

Even though she does earn a spot on the team, the kids and somewhat the teacher don’t want her there. I felt bad because Melody was bullied. However at the district competition, the team accepts her only when they get interviewed on the news because of how extraordinary Melody is. The team also makes it to the final competition in Washington, D.C. But Melody is left behind due to the team taking an earlier flight due to inclement weather. Melody was hurt and angry, as was I. I wanted to see the team sweep the competition and get on Good Morning America with Melody. The team views her as a burden instead of an asset.

After the team comes home from getting ninth place without her there, they apologize and try to give her the small trophy as a peace offering, but Melody knocks it off of her wheelchair tray, and it breaks.  She tells the team off and leaves the room.  I did one of those slow claps like you see a lot in the movies after the nice person tells off the villain for Melody.

While I was reading, I thought that Melody was like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. She goes on a journey into an unknown land (regular classes), but she has a newfound appreciation for her special education classes and her friends there like Dorothy when she comes home from Oz.

I cried when I finished the book because of how extraordinary the story was. I did some research and found out that Sharon M. Draper has a daughter with CP too. Thank you, Sharon, for this story!

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