Imagine living all your life without being able to walk, talk, or even move with fairly good coordination. Melody Brooks, the main character in this book, is almost eleven years old, and has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy. She has lived all her life with words surrounding her, and a million thoughts in her head. Yet she has been tortured by the fact that she cannot respond to those words or express those thoughts. Then, with the help of her neighbor, Mrs. V., Melody purchases a machine (a special type of laptop) that gives her a voice. One where she can type any word or sentence and the computer will say it for her. She is a brilliant young girl, yet until this amazing opportunity comes up she cannot prove to anyone, teachers and doctors alike, what her brain can actually do.
I think one of the reasons that this book popped out to me was that fact that the main character has a disability. So many books have main characters that are ordinary kids. Middle schoolers who are trying to make it through middle school alive. Older siblings that are jealous of their new younger sibling. Those books focus on everyday things, and yet when we read them we always feel bad for them, and want to help them through their problems. But what about kids like Melody, who have more difficult lives than any of us? Don’t they deserve a standing ovation for just living through the first five years of their life?
I also think I especially liked this book because I can relate fairly well to it. I have an uncle who has Down syndrome. In the book, there is a side character named Maria. Being in Melody’s class at school, Melody does describe her a bit. Maria has Down syndrome. Although she is the character who I can understand best (because of my uncle), the other children in Melody’s class have disabilities as well, that I feel I am able to understand what is going on in their heads because of my uncle.
Later on in the book, Melody makes her school’s Whiz Kids team because of her smarts. Two girls, Molly and Claire, do not think she should have made the team, although both of them made the team themselves. They talk badly of her behind her back, and you find yourself taking Melody’s side and defending her. You start thinking “They’re so mean! Why don’t they just close their mouths?” But, the truth is, there are people out there like that.
I think what we should take from this book is the fact that those people (people with disabilities) just wanted to be recognized for who they really are, and not as “that girl in the wheelchair” or “that boy who can’t talk”. We should judge these special people by their character and not by their appearances.
Out of my Mind by Sharon M. Draper. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2010. Buy the book here and support Children's Art Foundation-Stone Soup in the process!
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