Great Illustrated Books

Out of My Mind

By Sharon Draper

Atheneum , 2010
Pages : 304
Suggested Ages: 9 and Up
ISBN: 141697170X

Melody describes herself as a little girl with short, dark, curly hair; brown eyes, one of which is slightly out of wack; a head that wobbles a little; thin legs that have never been used; and feet that sometimes kick unexpectedly. "Not a lot of control there," she notes wryly. Melody has cerebral palsy, and though she has never spoken a single word, she has a prodigious memory, recalling word-for-word everything she sees and hears. When she gets frustrated, she screeches and flails her body in what she calls "tornado explosions," and not even her own mother knows what's wrong. Despite one doctor's pronouncement that Melody is severely brain-damaged, her mother believes she is intelligent and enrolls her in a special needs class in a local elementary school, where she is strapped in a wheelchair all day and uses a primitive communication board to point to phrases like "yes," "no," and "maybe" with her thumb. As Melody explains in her remarkable narrative, "It's like I live in a cage with no door and no key, and I have no way to tell someone how to get me out.

In fifth grade, a whole new world opens up when she gets an electric wheelchair and a new high-tech computer with a speech device called a Medi-Talker. Suddenly, she is able to say "I love you" to her parents for the first time. Mainstreamed into an inclusion class for her major class subjects, Melody tries out for the school's Whiz Kids competition team, coached by her history teacher. No one believes she can succeed. "They think my brain is messed up like the rest of me," she types to Catherine, her special assistant, though she perseveres and aces the quiz team tests.

Don't think that this is a heartwarming tale of a girl who overcomes her illness to triumph over the odds. Cerebral palsy is not curable. Melody faces disappointments and setbacks that would be daunting or devastating for anyone. She's a fighter, though, and her honest narrative will get kids thinking about and appreciating all the things they do without thinking, like walking and talking.

Reviewed by : JF.


If you love this book, then try:

Baskin, Nora Raleigh. Anything but Typical. Simon & Schuster, 2009.

Choldenko, Gennifer. Al Capone Does My Shirts. Putnam, 2004.

Codell, Esm� Raji. Sahara Special. Hyperion, 2003.

Dowd, Siobhan. The London Eye Mystery. Random House/David Fickling, 2008.

Gantos, Jack. Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key. Farrar, 1998


Konigsburg, E. L. The View from Saturday. Atheneum, 1996.

Lord, Cynthia. Rules. Scholastic, 2006.

Miller, Sarah Elizabeth. Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller. Atheneum, 2007.

Sonnenblick, Jordan. After Ever After. Scholastic, 2010.

Trueman, Terry. Stuck in Neutral. HarperCollins, 2000.

Wolff, Virginia Euwer. Probably Still Nick Swanson. Henry Holt, 1988


Spinelli, Jerry. Loser. HarperCollins, 2002.

Tarshis, Lauren. Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree. Dial, 2007.

Urban, Linda. A Crooked Kind of Perfect. Harcourt, 2007.

Critics have said

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