Saturday, June 24, 2017

Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper

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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.

Eventually, according to the book jacket, Melody is given the ability to speak through what I suspect is some sort of computer or tablet. But, we haven't gotten that far in the story yet.

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.


  1. This sounds like a worthwhile read, especially with the added benefit of discussing it with your student.

    I watched the TV series Speechless this year, which is a sitcom about a family with a special needs child who sounds a lot like Melody. It's interesting that the show is not a drama, but a comedy, and I think that opens the door to an audience that might not watch a drama about this topic, and thus get them to think about what life might be like for a family like that. I've found it both funny and thought-provoking, though it is a little over-the-top sometimes.

    1. Hi, Kathy. Sorry to be so long in replying...have been without wifi since Friday! Was too lazy to pack up my laptop and go to a coffee shop.

      Anyway, I have heard of 'Speechless'. I guess I will have to wait till it shows up on Netflix to watch it.

      I am looking forward to your new page design! You are brave to attempt such a project. And, 'A Paris Year' looks delightful. Thanks for posting about it.

  2. I'd probably like this book now, as an adult, but as I kid I would never have made it through this one...not enough magic for me. :) Happy reading!

    1. Hi, Lark. I am not sure my student is all that delighted with the choice, but he is persevering. I think he would have preferred a book about baseball.