It’s been a busy, difficult, joyful, and surprising few weeks at our house. Thanks for your patience as I have unintentionally taken a bit of a hiatus the last few weeks.
Today I am back with a review of Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper. We read this book for book club at the end of the summer and it was really interesting and thought provoking. We had a fantastic discussion about it and the issues it raises.
- We had such a great discussion about this book at book club — the challenges of people with disabilities, treating people with disabilities with respect and teaching our kids to do the same, understanding the ways people with disabilities can be helped, listening and understanding our kids better and how life sometimes just isn’t fair. Also the difference between losing mental abilities and lacking the ability to communicate. A great conversation!
Book Summary: “Melody is not like most people. She cannot walk or talk, but she has a photographic memory; she can remember every detail of everything she has ever experienced. She is smarter than most of the adults who try to diagnose her and smarter than her classmates in her integrated classroom – the very same classmates who dismiss her as mentally challenged because she cannot tell them otherwise. But Melody refuses to be defined by cerebral palsy. And she’s determined to let everyone know it – somehow.”
I loved Melody’s voice and perspective. Such a fascinating look inside her head and all the words and thoughts that she has. It was so interesting to hear about her experiences with cerebral palsy and how trapped she was in her body but how much she wanted to express herself. While she is physically limited because of her disability, Melody has a vibrant personality and so much inside her head! I haven’t read many books about kids with disabilities. It was so moving to read this book and see what it’s like for Melody.
There are fascinating details about living with disabilities throughout the book, and I loved the people that fought for Melody along the way. From the selfless love of Melody’s parents and dear neighbor Mrs V to help her with so many physical things — getting dressed, eating each bite of food, getting her to the toilet, bathing her, getting her to school, training for the whiz kids competition, helping her get into her wheelchair and understanding her needs. I was shocked by how people treated Melody at school with the poor special education teachers, under achieving academics (just abcs in 3rd grade!) and the way other teachers and students in the inclusion classes treated her. Makes me think more seriously about how I treat people that are different from me especially those with disabilities.
The plot was exciting and engaging especially the quiz bowl plot detailing Melody’s fight to make the team. I was amazed by how hard all the team members work and how much studying goes into their experience. I loved how Melody is part of a team and feels normal for the first time. I loved the simple ways she can feel more included like with the modified answer board at the local competition. Also how important she is to the team’s success. But my heart also broke for her when we learn how her teammates treated her. The ending is just devastating, and I had to talk it out a bit because I just found it so upsetting. No one stands up for her. No one is her true friend. Not even her teacher sees how important she is to the team and how important the team is to her. I was glad they lost in the national championship and couldn’t believe how they try to “make it up to her.” But the larger question remains: would I treat her differently? Would I be a true friend? Am I teaching my kids to be true friends to everyone even those with disabilities?
For me, the ending was a bit over the top. We have the intense devastation from the DC trip and then little Penny’s accident. It felt a bit underdeveloped and intense. Glad everyone is okay.!And I did like how strong and courageous Melody is at the end. She confronts everyone very maturely and asks hard questions that needed to be addressed. I hope that this experience can give her a lot of confidence going forward and hopefully change the lives of her teammates as well.
Such an important book! I want my kids to read this in several years so we can have a meaningful conversation about this book and the issues it discusses. Important to treat others with disabilities and just different than ourselves with respect and compassion. Highly recommend!
What are some of your favorite books with characters with disabilities?