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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Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

  
(Image copyright: Christinabakerkline.com)

Note: I started writing this post in January after I finished the book, but I polished it up and am just now getting around to submitting it here!

I received a bunch of books for Christmas of 2014, as I do every year from my family, by various authors.  Sometimes they are on my Christmas list, and others are surprises.  Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline was a surprise, even though I had talked about it a few times.

My voracious appetite is always satisfied after I read a spectacular page-turner.  Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline was a perfect example.  I was lost in both Molly Ayer and Vivian Daly’s worlds from beginning to end. I read it before bed each night and I kept wanting to read more each time. I didn’t want it to end!

I remember reading and learning about orphan trains when I was young and through Nellie in the Samantha American Girl books, but this story was different. It showed a different side about what could happen when an orphan was placed. 

Molly and Vivian are a lot alike, despite their ages (Molly is seventeen and Vivian is ninety-one). They grew up not knowing a lot about their pasts, they were shuffled from home to home (Molly is a foster child; Vivian was an orphan train rider), and they have seen both the worst and the best in people. Their worlds collide when Molly does a service project by helping Vivian clean out her attic. I loved how each of them learned from the other and they changed by the end and were able to become friends.

Sometimes I have a hard time with books that are told from multiple points of view because I have to keep looking back to see who is telling the story, but not with this one.  I knew when Molly was telling the story versus Vivian.  I’m glad that Kline wrote the book the way she did and had different narrative types (Molly was third person and Vivian was first person).

I loved the ending to the book, but I won’t spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read it. I can see this book being made into either a feature film or a TV movie someday! Thank you, @bakerkline, for this wonderful read!