Title: Out of My MindAuthor: Sharon Draper
Release: March 9, 2010
Isbn:141697170X (isbn13: 9781416971702)
Imagine not being able to talk, walk, feed yourself, or take yourself to the bathroom. A real nightmare right? In Sharon Draper’s new book Out of My Mind this nightmare is a reality for eleven-year-old Melody. Born with cerebral palsy, Melody’s mind is filled with words and thoughts she can never express, but Draper’s beautiful and richly detailed prose gives Melody a harmoniously distinct voice impossible to forget. Listen...
I’m surrounded by thousands of words. Maybe millions.
Cathedral, Mayonnaise. Pomegranate.
Mississippi. Neapolitan. Hippopotamus.
Silky. Terrifying. Iridescent.
Tickle. Sneeze. Wish. Worry.
Words have always swirled around me like snowflakes—each one delicate and different, each one melting untouched in my hands.
Deep within me, words pile up in huge drifts. Mountains of phrases and sentences and connected ideas. Clever expressions. Jokes. Love songs.
From the time I was really little—maybe just a few months old—words were like sweet, liquid gifts, and I drank them like lemonade. I could almost taste them. They made my jumbled thoughts and feelings have substance. My parents have always blanketed me with conversation. They chattered and babbled. They verbalized and vocalized. My father sang to me. My mother whispered her strength into my ear.
Every word my parents spoke to me or about me I absorbed and kept and remembered. All of them.
I have no idea how I untangled the complicated process of words and thought, but it happened quickly and naturally. By the time I was two, all my memories had words, and all my words had meanings.
But only in my head.
I have never spoken one single word. I am almost eleven years old.
Using first person narrative, Draper provides Melody a voice that is bright, witty, ingenious, and totally believable. I immediately formed a strong connection to Melody partially because of my own experiences working with an adolescent C.P. patient during my career as a nurse. However, the real connection is made because Draper’s characterization is so compelling. Within the first fifty pages, we learn first-hand a great deal about Melody’s life. She explains how she remembers everything she sees and hears, how much her mother and father love and care for her, how frustrating it is to not be able to express herself to those around her. “Nobody gets me. Nobody. It drives me crazy ... It’s like I live in a cage with no door and no key. And I have no way to tell someone how to get me out.”
When Melody’s mother enrolls her in school, Melody is hopeful that she will learn new things everyday. However, school becomes another source of frustration. Surrounded by other “special children”, Melody is forced to endure doing the same things every year, “but with a new teacher.” Her experiences give new meaning to “dumbing down the curriculum.” Even her Plexiglass communication tray limits her abilities because it only provides “a handful of common nouns, verbs and adjectives ... and a few necessary phrases, like, I need to go to the bathroom, please and I’m hungry.”
Once Melody describes her first eleven years, the plot begins to truly develop. Melody becomes part of an inclusion program and begins to participate in “real” classroom experiences. Her physical limitations, however, remain a key source of frustrations and continue to define her in the eyes of her non-disabled classmates and regular education teachers. With the help of a classroom aide, her parents, and Ms V, a wonderful neighbor, whose faith in her Melody is an inspiration, Melody’s imprisoned intellect is released when she receives a computer that talks and allows her to write. The Medi-Talker makes it possible for Melody to participate in classroom discussions and express her thoughts and feeling to her parents and friends without assistance. Sadly, her “regular” classmates and teachers remain skeptical of Melody’s true intellect.
Through Melody’s voice, Draper realistically portrays the insensitivity and discriminatory attitudes that disabled children encounter everyday without resorting to a preachy, bitter, or self-pitying tone. Melody’s perseverance despite overwhelming obstacles both from her physical limitations, and society's intolerance towards imperfections makes this book one of the most poignant and spiritually uplifting stories I have ever read. Melody’s conflicts are very real and the heartbreak she endures will bring tears to your eyes. I predict that Out of My Mind will be a 2010 award winner and is definitely going down as one of my all time favorite reads EVER!