This is not a book I would normally read but I am tutoring a young boy who will enter fifth grade in September and his entire class was given one book to read over the summer: Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper.
This student and I have been meeting weekly for about six months and are working on his reading and writing skills. Now we are both reading Out of My Mind independently, writing chapter summaries, creating character profiles, and making a list of unfamiliar vocabulary words. Then we compare our notes to make sure he has captured the important details. He will no doubt be writing about some aspect of the book when school starts and I want to be sure he is thinking about more than just what happens in the story.
We settled on giving ourselves five weeks to read the book which is an average of eight chapters a week or about 60 pages. For him, it's a long book for a short summer.
The narrator is Melody, an 11-year-old girl with cerebral palsy. She has a photographic memory, is funny, smart, and rarely feels sorry for herself. She can't walk or talk or write. She has to be fed, dressed, and taken to the toilet. She uses a wheelchair fitted out with a communication board — a tray with letters, numbers, and phrases that she can point to. This is the only way she can express herself. That and what she calls her tornado explosions when she is totally frustrated.
Each chapter lets the reader in on one aspect of Melody's life: how she and her parents get along and how they never give up on her; how her teachers treat her; how the other kids in her class behave; how one doctor suggests she might be better off in an institutional home; how she adapts to pets, a younger sister, and a new friend.
Melody has a wonderful voice. Her wry comments on the world around her - known only to her because, remember, she can't speak or write - are quite astute. At times, Melody's story is heartbreaking but it never comes across as self-pitying.
My student and I have already had interesting discussions about what life must be like for Melody and how we might react to having her in our circle of family and friends.
So that is what I will be reading for the next couple of weeks. And here I thought, at my age, I was finished having homework for the summer.