Friday, July 15, 2011

Out of My Mind

Draper, Sharon M. (2010). Out of my mind. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
This book is a 2011 Texas Bluebonnet Award nominee.

This was a great book for making you think about how often we judge a person or situation before knowing everything.

Exposition: Right away you are introduced to the narrator and main character of this book, Melody.  She is almost 11 years old and has never spoken.  She has cerebral palsy and relies on other people to help her with most everything.
Conflict: Melody is struggling with fitting in at her school.  She is actually brilliant, but since she cannot speak, most people, including doctors, feel that she is severly brain damaged.  She hears and understands everything people say about her, and through her narration we see how hurtful it is. 
Rising Action: The school begins an inclusion program and so Melody is able to go into mainstream classes with her peers.  Here she is energized and desperately wants to be able to participate in class.  One day, one of her classmates brings a laptop to school and Melody is sure that something like that will help her communicate.
Climax:  Melody gets a Medi-talker, which is a programmable machine that allows her to "speak" to people.  She loads the device with words, phrases and sentences which then enables her to share her thoughts.  It is the first time in her life that she is able to communicate and she feels such freedom.  She even tries out for the Whiz Kids team for her school and makes it.  Unfortunately, even with her intelligence clearly showing, she still has to deal with insensitivity and discrimination by the other students and even adults in her world. 
Falling Action: When the Whiz Kids team wins the local competition, they prepare to go to Washington, DC for the national competition.  The kids have a hard time accepting Melody on the team, and end up leaving without her.  She was devestated that. although she helped the team win, they would leave for the competition without her.  Melody is still just trying to fit in with her peers.
Resolution: After another crisis (her mother runs over her little sister when Melody insists on being taken to school) Melody faces her teammates upon their return from the competition.  Melody has the last laugh as they try to explain their behavior and give her the 9th place trophy they won.  She told them that she did not want it; that they deserved it!  Although she doesn't ever truly fit in, she becomes a little more comfortable in her own skin.

To me, this entire book was one big unexpected insight.  To be able to know the thoughts of someone who can't communicate is eye-opening.  The author does an exceptional job of creating a character that, in spite of having disabilities, is a strong character that you can't help but cheer for.  Also, due to her brilliant mind, Melody, through the author, creates visual imagery through her detailed descriptions of people and events.  When the author describes one of Melody's teachers as "balding and pudgy" who "dresses like a TV preacher-in three-piece suits with vests" you can visualize this man.  This book is a wonderful experience, playing like a movie in your head as you read it.

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