Reviewed by Katie Green
Imagine never communicating with the people around you. Imagine never being able to tell them you understand them. This is the frustratingly isolated world of eleven-year-old Melody. She is a genius with a photographic memory, but almost no one knows. Melody has cerebral palsy, so she is unable to talk or walk. Very few people, including her teachers, take the time to appreciate the brilliant thoughts inside Melody’s head. Instead, she spends her time relearning the alphabet year after year in her special education classroom. But everything changes when Melody gets a device that allows her to speak. Will people be ready to hear what she has to say?
Out of My Mind taught my students more empathy for people with physical disabilities than any lesson or conversation. Draper’s novel provides readers with a window into the experiences of one young girl who must face the social challenges of middle school with the extra challenge of being constantly judged and silenced. Draper tackles many biases that people and systems have against people with disabilities. However, the novel never advocates that we pity those with disabilities. Instead, it suggests we try to understand and support differences. Draper creates a relatable and authentic middle school story that children can’t help but embrace. My sixth graders tried to defend Melody when she was mistreated, and they cheered when she triumphed. This novel teaches children to advocate for and embrace people who are different.
Out of My Mind
by Sharon Draper
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2012
Katie is a Literacy M.Ed. student and a teacher of high school English in Minneapolis, currently attempting to read the Harry Potter series in Spanish.