Reviews for Out of My Mind


Booklist Reviews 2010 January #1
*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. Copyright 2010 Booklist Reviews.

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BookPage Reviews 2010 March
Finding her voice

Melody Brooks is smart, very smart. And she knows what she wants to say most of the time. Trouble is, she can’t—she literally cannot speak. “It’s no wonder everybody thinks I’m retarded. . . . I hate that word, by the way.” Diagnosed with cerebral palsy and wheelchair-bound, 10-year-old Melody can’t walk or talk, but her mind is filled with words, sounds, colors, phrases, music and just about everything else she’s ever seen or heard—though it doesn’t do her much good stored silently inside. “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,” Melody thinks.

Told through the eyes, ears and mind of Melody, Out of My Mind is loosely based on the experiences of the author’s daughter. It’s a startlingly candid, pull-no-punches account of a life that is often frustrating but also uplifting.

While schoolmates and even some teachers dismiss her, Melody is never underestimated by family and close friends. The book crescendos to two major events in Melody’s life—both of which have life-changing results.

Hopefully the novel will be life-changing for readers as well. It’s hard to put down Melody’s tale in all its rawness and honesty. The chapters are fast-paced; events are brilliantly described. And while Melody is the star, Sharon Draper also vividly draws the characters who interact with her.

But don’t peg this as a gloom-and-doom book about a girl with special needs. By the end of the book, readers will not only triumph with Melody, they will also unequivocally gain a deeper insight into what the word “disabled” really means.

A must for middle-grade readers, Out of My Mind should launch great discussions in families and classrooms.

Freelance writer Sharon Verbeten lives in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where she faces her own joys and challenges in raising a special-needs child

Copyright 2010 BookPage Reviews.

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2010 Fall
Narrator Melody is a fifth grader with cerebral palsy. She's brilliant, but few people realize just how brilliant until she receives "Elvira," her Medi-Talker computer. Draper paints the picture of a real girl--with tantrums and attitude, problems with mean girls and oafish adults. This is an eye-opening book with an unforgettable protagonist and a rich cast of fully realized, complicated characters. Copyright 2010 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

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Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2010 #2
Narrator Melody is a fifth grader with cerebral palsy, but she is much more than that. Like her hero Stephen Hawking, Melody is damaged on the outside and brilliant within. It takes awhile for the adults in her life, especially her teachers, to see just how much life there is behind those stiff arms and hands, wobbling head, and "slightly out of whack" dark brown eyes. While her parents and babysitter know that Melody has a rich intellect, few people realize just how bright she is until she receives "Elvira," her Medi-Talker computer. Claire, a classmate in Melody's inclusion class, says what many of us think when we see a person with cerebral palsy, "I'm not trying to be mean -- honest -- but it just never occurred to me that Melody had thoughts in her head." Draper paints the picture of a real fifth grader, a girl with tantrums and attitude, problems with mean girls and oafish adults. Hearts will soar when Melody makes the quiz team and plummet when her classmates end up leaving her behind at the airport. When Melody sees danger and cannot get others to understand, we feel her frustration and terror. This is a powerfully eye-opening book with both an unforgettable protagonist and a rich cast of fully realized, complicated background characters. Copyright 2010 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2010 February #2
Melody, diagnosed with cerebral palsy, cannot walk or talk. Despite her parents' best efforts, the outside world has defined her by her condition. Melody's life changes when inclusion classrooms are introduced in her school, and she interacts with children other than those in her special-needs unit. To these children, Melody is "other," and they are mostly uncomfortable with her sounds and jerky movements. Normal problems of school friendships are magnified. Preparation for a trivia competition and acquisition of a computer that lets her communicate her thoughts reveal Melody's intelligence to the world. Melody is an entirely complete character, who gives a compelling view from inside her mind. Draper never shies away from the difficulties Melody and her family face. Descriptions of both Melody's challenges--"Going to the bathroom at school just plain sucks"--and the insensitivities of some are unflinching and realistic. Realistically, Melody's resilient spirit cannot keep her from experiencing heartbreak and disappointment even after she has demonstrated her intellect. This book is rich in detail of both the essential normalcy and the difficulties of a young person with cerebral palsy. (Fiction. 10 & up) Copyright Kirkus 2010 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Library Media Connection Reviews 2010 May/June
Melody, an 11-year-old girl with cerebral palsy, who cannot speak or walk, tells the story of her daily struggles. While Melody cannot express herself through words, those around her realize that she understands more than she has been given credit for. Melody?s mother enrolls her at their neighborhood elementary school where she is placed in a classroom for physically and mentally challenged students. The teacher decides that her students are going to be included in ?regular? classroom activities, and Melody is given a computer, which allows her to express herself by speaking for her. She is able to join a group of students who participate in a national quiz bowl. Once everyone realizes that Melody has far more talent than many of the ?regular? students, they question their treatment of others. This title is a wonderful way to remind students that everybody is different, but they can excel in various ways. It would be a reassuring choice for a child who has a special needs family mem er. Students who are generally interested in those who are different would enjoy it too. Recommended. Beth Green, School Library Media Specialist, Wappingers Junior High School, Wappingers Falls, New York ¬ 2010 Linworth Publishing, Inc.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2010 February #3

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.)

[Page 132]. Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.

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School Library Journal Reviews 2010 March

Gr 4-6--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.--Alison Follos, North Country School, Lake Placid, NY

[Page 156]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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VOYA Reviews 2010 August
Although she's afflicted with cerebral palsy (CP), fifth grader Melody experiences a rich mental life, which is immediately evident to readers of her engaging first-person narration. Due to her inability to control her muscles or speak, she has to overcome initial assumptions that she is also mentally impaired. Only after acquiring an electric wheelchair and a special communication device can Melody begin to transmit her thoughts "out of her mind" and convince her teachers and schoolmates that she is an intelligent person inhabiting an unresponsive body, much like her hero, Stephen Hawking. Draper, a retired teacher (and, as explained in her author note, the mother of a grown daughter with CP), is superbly qualified to describe both home life and the public school setting from the perspective of a child with CP. Melody is mainstreamed into some regular classes, including a history class in which she earns a prized spot on a quiz team. Melody's triumphs and setbacks as she strives to become a socially accepted classmate and team member are vividly described in this inspirational novel, which 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. Draper's sensitive immersion in the mind of a specially challenged eleven year old joins a number of other excellent recent YA novels about CP. Ron Koertge's Stoner & Spaz (Candlewick, 2002/VOYA April 2002), Harriet McBryde Johnson's Accidents of Nature (Holt, 2006/VOYA August 2006) and Tracie Vaughn Zimmer's Reaching for the Sun (Bloomsbury, 2007) are about older teens with CP. Terry Trueman's acclaimed Stuck in Neutral (HarperCollins, 2000/VOYA December 2000) is narrated by a fourteen-year-old with CP.--Walter Hogan. 5Q 3P M Copyright 2010 Voya Reviews.

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