Monday, February 6, 2012
out of my mind, written by Sharon M. Draper. Atheneum, Simon & Schuster, 2010. $21.99 ages 10 and up
""Fifth grade is probably pretty rocky for lots of kids. Homework. Never being quite sure if you're cool enough. Clothes. Parents. Wanting to play with toys and wanting to be grown up all at the same time. Underarm odor."
Here's a book that will stay with me for a long time, and I will be talking about it in classrooms visits. Once started, I just wanted to keep reading. Then, when I had to stop because I could no longer keep my eyes open, it was the first thing I picked up when I opened those eyes this morning.
Melody feels like a new, and unforgettable, friend. She has the most severe form of cerebral palsy, which means that she cannot walk or talk. Think? Now, that's another story and the premise for this wonderful book about the power of language and of the human spirit.
Inclusion makes a marked difference for Melody. She works within her peer group, a fifth grade classroom. The others in her class have a tough time understanding Melody's life and her place in their classroom. What they see are her sounds and jerky movements, her inability to communicate and her wheelchair. What they fail to see is that Melody is brilliant, and full of words and thoughts:
"When people look at me, I guess they see a girl with short, dark, curly hair strapped into a pink wheelchair. By the way, there is nothing cute about a pink wheelchair. Pink doesn't change a thing.
They see a girl with dark brown eyes that are full of curiosity. But one of them is slightly out of whack.
Her head wobbles a bit.
Sometime she drools.
She's really tiny for a girl who is age ten and three quarters.
Her legs are very thin, probably because they've never been used.
Her body tends to move of its own agenda, with feet kicking out unexpectedly and arms emotionally flailing, connecting with whatever is close by -"
A computer that lets her voice her thoughts changes her way of dealing with the world, and allows others to see just how intelligent she really is. As a result of that, she becomes a school team member for a quiz competition.
Melody allows readers to see the world from inside her head. Her first person narrative is filled with the difficulties that she and her family face on a daily basis, with her resilient spirit that deals with the joys and heartbreaks of being an almost eleven-year-old girl in an often cruel place and with an honesty that is real and touching. Yes,, she is smart. She is also funny and has a charm that will hold her in your heart.
This book would be perfect as a classroom read in intermediate and middle years classrooms. It would also work well for novel study with a small group as there is so much to feel, and discuss about this lovely, labelled girl. Starting a book club? It is due out in paperback in May...if you can wait that long!