This one was a read aloud with one of my book buddies, which is why it was on my reading list for so long. I wasn’t entirely sure we were going to get through it at the beginning.
Also, I recommended Out of My Mind to my mother this summer, who teaches special education. She got excited because she had a student who had cerebral palsy and felt like his world opened up when he got a computer he could use to vocalize what was in his head. Mom said he moved when he was still in elementary school, but came back and had lunch with my mother and the speech pathologist at her school years later. I think it’s pretty awesome when a reader, even and older reader, can connect with the story, ideas, and themes in young adult literature.
Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper
Hardcover, 304 pages
Sharon Draper is one of the first authors I suggest when I have a reluctant reader. Most of my students have loved the Hazelwood High series, Romiette and Julio, and Battle of Jericho. While I liked Out of My Mind, I think it is a little slow to start, where readers will spend the first 50 pages or so thinking, “Okay, where is this going?”
The protagonist, Melody, is a fifth grader with cerebral palsy. Most of her life, she’s had trouble communicating, controlling her limbs, and doing much for herself. All she wants is to be normal. So when she gets a computer called a Medi-Talker, that she can program to speak for her, Melody decides to show her smarts by joining her school’s quiz team.
In Melody’s quest to be as normal as she can be, she learns about the reality of being in a circle of “friends.” Except that she never feels like she really fits in. When her team wins the local quiz competition and they go out to celebrate after, Melody is embarrassed because she has to be fed. While he teammates don’t comment, the silence at the table speaks volumes about their opinions about Melody, despite her obvious talent and intelligence. I found myself getting angry at the way her classmates responded to her and talked about her, and felt like in the end, Melody got shafted. But that’s the reality, isn’t it? Unfortunate.
Out of My Mind is a story for anyone who feels like an outsider. It’s a story that special education teachers can relate to (hi, mom). And it’s a story that will give readers insight into what it could be like to not have a fully-functioning body, but still a fully-functioning mind.