Synopses & Reviews
Melody has a photographic memory. She remembers everything that has ever happened to her in precise, exact detail — from the words to a song she once heard when she was little to what she ate for a typical mundane breakfast. She also knows thousands and thousands of facts. Her head is like a video camera that is always recording. Always — and there’s no delete button. She’s the smartest kid in her whole school — but, NO ONE knows because she has virtually no way of communicating. Melody has cerebral palsy. All most people see is a special needs kid — never suspecting that trapped inside this eleven-year old girl is more information and insight than they ever imagined.
Being stuck inside her head is making Melody go out of her mind — that is until she discovers a computerized talking device that will allow her communicate for the first time ever. A dream come true! At last, she's able to talk, to be in a regular classroom, and have regular conversations! Melody even joins the Whiz Kids Quiz Team — and becomes one of their most valuable members. She’s showing everyone what she is really capable of and surprising even herself with the power of her computerized voice. But, what if people — teachers, classmates, friends — don’t want Melody to succeed? And what if Melody’s new voice isn’t loud enough to be heard over all her difficulties?
From multiple Coretta Scott King Award winner Sharon Draper comes a story full of heartache and hope. Melody is learning to communicate with the world... and teaching the world how to communicate with her. If you are brave enough, strong enough, if you can bear to listen, hers is a story you need to hear.
Eleven-year-old Melody Brooks has a photographic memory, synesthesia, and cerebral palsy. She can’t speak or feed herself, and her motor skills are limited to whatever her thumbs can manage. The neighbor woman who takes care of Melody while her parents work is determined that Melody will learn as much as possible, and she works tirelessly to expand the girl’s vocabulary. Eventually, with the help of a communication device, Melody manages to show her teachers and classmates just how much she knows. The premise of Melody’s cognitive skills being trapped in a minimally functioning body recalls Trueman’s Stuck in Neutral (BCCB 6/00), and the theme retains its fascination; Draper’s smooth style enhances the story, and there’s a romantic element to the notion that Melody isn’t simply capable but actually gifted. The drama is overplayed, though, with Melody’s abilities implausibly superlative. Melody’s school experiences are somewhat anachronistic, and her classmates are little more than a collection of clichÉs, from the special needs kids who are unfailingly kind and noble to the normal kids who are outspokenly rude. Draper is a master of melodrama, though, and Melody’s story certainly doesn’t lack that; she may not be a particularly believable character, but she’s an interesting one, and her plight will do its work of making students think twice about their classmates, acquaintances, and siblings with special needs. -- BULLETIN, March 1, 2010 *Born with cerebral palsy, Melody, 10, has never spoken a word. She is a brilliant fifth grader trapped in an uncontrollable body. Her world is enhanced by insight and intellect, but gypped by physical limitations and misunderstandings. She will never sing or dance, talk on the phone, or whisper secrets to her friends. She’s not complaining, though; she’s planning and fighting the odds. In her court are family, good neighbors, and an attentive student teacher. Pitted against her is the “normal” world: schools with limited resources, cliquish girls, superficial assumptions, and her own disability. Melody’s life is tragically complicated. She is mainly placed in the special-ed classroom where education means being babysat in a room with replayed cartoons and nursery tunes. Her supportive family sets her up with a computer. She learns the strength of thumbs as she taps on a special keyboard that finally lets her “talk.” When she is transitioned into the regular classroom, Melody’s undeniable contribution enables her class to make it to the national quiz team finals. Then something happens that causes her to miss the finals, and she is devastated by her classmates’ actions. Kids will benefit from being introduced to Melody and her gutsy, candid, and compelling story. It speaks volumes and reveals the quiet strength and fortitude it takes to overcome disabilities and the misconceptions that go with them. –School Library Journal STARRED REVIEW *Fifth-grader Melody has cerebral palsy, a condition that affects her body but not her mind. Although she is unable to walk, talk, or feed or care for herself, she can read, think, and feel. A brilliant person is trapped inside her body, determined to make her mark in the world in spite of her physical limitations. Draper knows of what she writes; her daughter, Wendy, has cerebral palsy, too. And although Melody is not Wendy, the authenticity of the story is obvious. Told in Melody's voice, this highly readable, compelling novel quickly establishes her determination and intelligence and the almost insurmountable challenges she faces. It also reveals her parents' and caretakers' courage in insisting that Melody be treated as the smart, perceptive child she is, and their perceptiveness in understanding how to help her, encourage her, and discourage self-pity from others. Thoughtless teachers, cruel classmates, Melody's unattractive clothes ("Mom seemed to be choosing them by how easy they'd be to get on me"), and bathroom issues threaten her spirit, yet the brave Melody shines through. Uplifting and upsetting, this is a book that defies age categorization, an easy enough read for upper-elementary students yet also a story that will enlighten and resonate with teens and adults. Similar to yet the antithesis of Terry Trueman's Stuck in Neutral (2000), this moving novel will make activists of us all. –Booklist STARRED REVIEW Melody Brooks, in a wheelchair and unable to speak, narrates this story about finding her voice. The first half of the book catalogues Melody's struggles—from her frustration with learning the same preschool lessons year after year to her inability to express a craving for a Big Mac. Draper, whose daughter has cerebral palsy, writes with authority, and the rage behind Melody's narrative is perfectly illustrated in scenes demonstrating the startling ignorance of many professionals (a doctor diagnoses Melody as “profoundly retarded”), teachers, and classmates. The lack of tension in the plot is resolved halfway through when Melody, at age 10, receives a talking computer, allowing her to “speak.” Only those with hearts of stone won't blubber when Melody tells her parents “I love you” for the first time. Melody's off-the-charts smarts are revealed when she tests onto her school's quiz bowl team, and the story shifts to something closer to The View from Saturday than Stuck in Neutral. A horrific event at the end nearly plunges the story into melodrama and steers the spotlight away from Melody's determination, which otherwise drives the story. Ages 10–up. (Mar.) –Publishers Weekly Unflinching and realistic...Rich in details of both the essential normalcy and the difficulties of a young person with cerebral palsy. –Kirkus STARRED REVIEW This powerful story by a two-time Coretta Scott King winner offers a wrenching insight into so many vital lives that the able-bodied overlook. If there's only one book teens and parents (and everyone else) can read this year, "Out of My Mind" should be it. --The Denver Post "Like Stephen Hawking, who becomes her hero, Melody discovers that her inner strength and intelligence are more reliable than most of the humans around her. She becomes an activist for herself, even as Draper challenges those who read her story to become activists for those who are different." -The Columbus Dispatch
"Uplifting and upsetting....This moving novel will make activists of us all." Booklist (starred review)
"Unflinching and realistic....Rich in detail of both the essential normalcy and the difficulties of a young person with cerebral palsy." Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Kids will benefit from being introduced to Melody and her gutsy, candid, and compelling story. It speaks volumes and reveals the quiet strength and fortitude it takes to overcome disabilities and the misconceptions that go with them." School Library Journal (starred review)
"Will appeal not only to middle school readers but also to anyone who wonders what might be going on in the minds of individuals with severe physical handicaps." VOYA
"If there's only one book teens and parents (and everyone else) can read this year, Out of My Mind should be it." The Denver Post
Eleven-year-old Melody has a photographic memory. Her head is like a video camera that is always recording, and she’s the smartest kid in her whole school — but no one knows it. If only she could speak up, if only she could tell people what she thinks and knows... but she can’t, because Melody can’t talk. She can’t walk. She can’t write. Melody has cerebral palsy, and most people — her teachers and doctors included — don’t think she’s capable of learning.
Being stuck inside her head is making Melody go out of her mind — that is, until she discovers something that will allow her to speak for the first time ever. At last Melody has a voice... but not everyone around her is ready to hear it.
From multiple Coretta Scott King Award winner Sharon M. Draper comes a story full of heartache and hope. Get ready to meet a girl whose voice you’ll never, ever forget.
Melody is not like most people. She cannot walk or talk, but she has a photographic memory; she can remember every detail of everything she has ever experienced. She is smarter than most of the adults who try to diagnose her and smarter than her classmates in her integrated classroom — the very same classmates who dismiss her as mentally challenged, because she cannot tell them otherwise. But Melody refuses to be defined by cerebral palsy. And she’s determined to let everyone know it…somehow. In this breakthrough story — reminiscent of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly — from multiple Coretta Scott King Award-winner Sharon Draper, readers will come to know a brilliant mind and a brave spirit who will change forever how they look at anyone with a disability.
About the Author
Sharon M. Draper is a two-time Coretta Scott King Award-winning author, most recently for Copper Sun, and previously for Forged by Fire. She’s also the recipient of the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Author Award for New Talent for Tears of a Tiger and the Coretta Scott King Author Honor for The Battle of Jericho and November Blues. Her other books include Romiette and Julio, Darkness Before Dawn, Double Dutch, Just Another Hero, and The Clubhouse Mysteries. An Alan Award recipient, she lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she taught high school English for twenty-five years. She’s a popular conference speaker, addressing educational and literary groups both nationally and internationally. For more information visit her at SharonDraper.com.