Saturday, January 29, 2011

Out of My Mind, by Sharon Draper (ages 9 - 12)

Many 5th and 6th graders I know love realistic fiction that explores how other kids are strong in the face of hard times. These kids on the brink of being teenagers know that life is not always easy - for them or others - and reading about others helps them know that we can survive. One book that will hook in lovers of realistic fiction is Out of My Mind. Melody Brooks has cerebral palsy and cannot speak; and yet, through this moving narrative, we come to know her thoughts, hopes and struggles.
Out of My MindOut of My Mind
by Sharon Draper
New York : Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2010
ages 9 - 12
available on Amazon and at your local library
Imagine having all your thoughts and feelings trapped inside you, not being able to share them with anyone - your family, your classmates, your teachers, your friends. Melody writes, “By the time I was two, all my memories had words, and all my words had meanings. But only in my head,” she writes. “I have never spoken one single word. I am almost eleven years old.” Through this story, we hear how about Melody's journey, surely a difficult one, but with Melody's sense of humor and sheer determination, a journey that we learn more about what we might be able to do.

Through the help of her parents and a devoted neighbor, Melody starts to use a communication board to communicate with those around her. This helps her integrate more with other students at school, and yet it is still a painful, difficult journey.  

Some have suggested that part of Melody's story are unrealistic, and yet I found that this story helped me develop more empathy for others trapped in similar situations. Soon after reading this, I sat next to a man on an airplane who had cerebral palsy and was traveling with his parents. Reading Out of My Mind helped me think about what he was going through but couldn't communicate with others. I particularly found Sharon Draper's thoughts on why she wrote this, especially reflecting on her experiences as a mother of a daughter with disabilities, interesting.

If you like Out of My Mind, you might try Mockingbird, by Kathryn Erskine, winner of this year's National Book Award for Young People. Out of My Mind has been awarded the 2011 Josette Frank Award for Fiction by the Children's Book Committee at Bank Street College of Education.

Review copy came from my home library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this page, a small portion will go to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you). Thank you for your support.

1 comment:

  1. I read this book last year, and as a special ed teacher thought it was great! Nice review.