review: Out of My Mind

Posted on 16 March 2010 Tuesday

Title: Out of My Mind

author:  Sharon Draper
date: Atheneum; March 2010
main character: Melody Brooks
Melody is an 11 year old 5th grader who spends much of her day in a pink wheelchair but, as Melody says, the pink doesn’t make it cute, it’s still a wheelchair. Melody’s got a mom and a dad, both of whom work outside the home so they often leave Melody with an neighbor, Ms. V.,  that earth-mother kind of neighbor that every child should have. She is accepting, empowering and no nonsense. Melody tell us about her classmates, her teachers and her daily routine which includes the tedious task of someone having to feed her because Melody can’t feed herself. There are in fact many things Melody can’t do but as we are pulled into her head (because Melody can’t talk either) we learn of the many, many things she can do.

In giving Melody a voice, Draper lets Melody be an 11 year old girl who, like any 11 year old girl, is learning how to maneuver in the world around her. It’s much more difficult for Melody because of the many physical challenges she faces and because of the stereotypes and biases which block her. But Melody has her family and Ms. V who love her and try to allow her to develop to her full potential. Needless to say, Draper took great liberty in her representation of what Melody thinks and knows. She did not, however take so much liberty showing how technology can unlock someones potential. Nor did she take liberty in showing how callous we can be toward those who are differently abled.  Some of Melody’s classmates are able to accept her, while others are not. Isn’t that how life is? While Draper depicts real situations, she sticks to the middle grade genre by giving situations that you don’t want to spend too much time thinking through. Out of my mind is a smooth, easy read that would make a wonderful all class or all grade read.

I was more than a little surprised to find so few reviews of this book online. Given how well established Draper is, given that we’re currently in a market that is looking for books about children who are differently abled, I would expect to see more written on this book. In one recent interview Draper mentions that Out is probably the most difficult book she wrote. I wish the interviewer had followed up on that! In another interview, Draper mentions here own daughter who is differently abled. I cannot help but wonder what would be the most challenging part of writing this book? The easiest part? I guess when an author leaves us wanting more, they’ve done a pretty good job.

You’ll start reading this book and you’ll wonder how in the world she’s going to get 200 pages out of this girls head and by the time you finish, you’ll want more.

Author Interview and first chapter

Study guide

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