|Author||Sharon M. Draper|
|Cover artist||Debra Sfetsios-Conover|
|Set in||United States|
|Publisher||Atheneum Books For Young Readers, Simon & Schuster|
|9 March 2010|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover, Paperback), eBook, audiobook|
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Out of My Mind is a novel by Sharon M. Draper, a New York Times bestselling author. The cover illustration of the fifth edition is by Daniel Chang, and the cover photography is by Cyril Bruneau/Jupiter Images. A reading group guide is enclosed. The book is recommended for ages 10 and up and for grades 5-8. The story was written in first person, featuring Melody Brooks, a girl with cerebral palsy.
Melody Brooks is a girl who was born with cerebral palsy. Also, who is ten years old. Her parents have done everything they can to help her live a normal life, but life is often frustrating for Melody since she cannot speak, move, nor communicate her wishes. As a result, Melody has to fight to get her wishes. At age five, Melody is even diagnosed as 'profoundly retarded and idiotic' by a doctor who suggests putting Melody in a nursing home. Despite this, Melody's mother enrolls her in Spaulding Street Elementary School to get the education she needs. However, the class she is put in is like a baby class, learning the same things every day, i. e. the alphabet. Melody is frustrated by this, due to having far superior knowledge but cannot speak or write. Her neighbor, Mrs. V., is a kind, but tough woman. She pushes Melody to do the best she can. When Melody was three, Mrs. V. was not impressed by Melody having to rely on her parents for everything. Because of this, Mrs. V. forced her to learn how to crawl and roll on the ground. She even taught Melody how to catch herself whenever she fell from her wheelchair. This helped Melody become self-sufficient, but she continues to be reliant on her parents to help feed her and help her go to the bathroom.
When Melody turns eight, her mother becomes pregnant. During this time, Melody overhears them talking about the new baby and their fears that it will suffer the same disabilities, causing her to feel ashamed. However, Melody is happy when the baby, Penny, is born perfectly healthy. Melody feels jealous as Penny grows and matures since she will never be able to do the things Penny can do. However, Melody loves her little sister, and the pleasures Penny brings to the family.
When Melody enters fifth grade, she has trouble communicating what she wants to everyone. She eventually learns of and gets a communication device that allows her to talk with other people. At school, her new teacher starts an inclusion program that allows the special needs students to participate in the standard classes. Melody also gets an aide, Catherine, to help her. Melody befriends Rose Spencer but is bullied by Molly and Claire, who believe that her disability makes her dumber than them. Even her teacher, Mr. Dimming, believes that Melody cannot participate, but is surprised that not only does Melody join, but passes a test exam of a trivia competition with a perfect score. She then participates in the qualifying exam to be part of the trivia competition and once again, surprises everyone when she makes the team.
Eventually, Melody helps the team win the qualifying competition to earn a trip to Washington D.C. for the national competition. However, on the day the group is to fly to Washington, Melody learns that her flight has been canceled due to weather, but that the rest of the team has made an earlier flight without her. The following day Melody insists on going to school, despite the fact that her mother is sick, tired, and frustrated. However, when Melody kicks, hits, and screams to warn her mother that Penny has slipped out of the house and is in the path of the car, her mother fails to understand, resulting in Penny being hit and injured. Melody feels guilty for not being able to warn her mother but learns that Penny will recover. On Monday, Melody's class apologizes for their lack of consideration towards her by giving her the ninth place trophy, hoping to reconcile with her. However, Melody forgives and laughs at them, destroys the trophy by accident, and heads out of the room. The next day, she and Catherine begin work on her autobiography, which begins with the first few lines of the book.
The cover art of the book shows a goldfish jumping out of its bowl. This cover represents Melody going out of her mind when being stuck in her head for so long. The goldfish represents Melody, and the bowl represents her mind.
There is also a scene in the book where Melody watches her pet goldfish jump out of the goldfish bowl to freedom. The cover of the book is both literal and a metaphor for how Melody feels trapped inside of her mind.
Awards and achievements
- New York Times Bestselling Novel for nine weeks
- Over 18 months on the New York Times Best Seller List
- Winner of the 2011 Bank Street College of Education Josette Frank Award
- Kirkus Reviews Best Children's Book of 2010
- A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of The Year
- The Virginia Readers' Choice Reading List for 2011-2012
- A Parents' Choice Silver Honor Book
- Texas Bluebonnet Award 2011-2012 Master List
- Essence Magazine Book of the Year
- A 2011 Notable Children's Book in the English Language Arts
- Top 10 Book of the Year for Shelf Awareness
- Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC) Choice of 2011
- 2011 IRA Teachers' Choice Book
- 2011 IRA Young Adult's Choice
- Buckeye Children's Book Award from Ohio
- Sunshine State Young Reader's Award in both the middle school and elementary categories
- Black-eyed Susan Book Award
- Beehive Book Award
- Featured in the July 9 issue of Time Magazine
- Featured in the July issue of Ladies' Home Journal
- On the Indie National Bestseller List
- Receiver of the SAKURA Award
- A NCTE Notable Children's Book in the Language Arts
Critical reception has been positive and seen as a well-written novel. Out of My Mind has received reviews from The Denver Post, The Columbus Dispatch, Publishers Weekly, Children's Literature, Washington Post, The Horn Book, and The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books. The novel received starred reviews from School Library Journal, Booklist, and Kirkus Reviews. Kirkus Reviews praised the book was 'rich in detail of both the essential normalcy and the difficulties of a young person with cerebral palsy', and 'descriptions of both Melody’s challenges—“Going to the bathroom at school just plain sucks”—and the insensitivities of some are unflinching and realistic'. Publishers Weekly criticized that there was a 'lack of tension in the plot', although it was 'resolved halfway through'. Booklist stated that Out of My Mind is 'a book that defies age categorization, an easy enough read for upper-elementary students yet also a story that will enlighten and resonate with teens and adults'. The Bulletin said the novel '[Will make] students think twice about their classmates, acquaintances, and siblings with special needs'. The Columbus Dispatch (Ohio) and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pennsylvania) stated 'Draper challenges those who read her story to become activists for those who are different'. The Denver Post powerfully concluded: 'if there's only one book teens and parents (and everyone else) can read this year, Out of My Mind should be it.' VOYA Magazine praised 'Melody's triumphs and setbacks as she strives to become a socially accepted classmate and team member are vividly described in this inspirational novel, which will appeal not only to middle school readers but also to anyone who wonders what might be going on in the minds of individuals with severe physical handicaps'. The Horn Book exclaimed that the novel is 'a powerfully eye-opening book with both an unforgettable protagonist and a dume cast of fully realized, complicated background characters'. Children's Literature said 'this is a genuinely moving novel'. The Washington Post commented 'author Sharon Draper creates an authentic character who insists, through her lively voice and indomitable will, that the reader become fully involved with the girl in the pink wheelchair'.
- ^'Sharon Draper: Biography'. Sharon Draper. Retrieved 16 October 2015.
- ^'Texas Bluebonnet Award 2011-2012 Master List'(PDF). Texas Library Association. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
- ^ abcd'Sharon Draper Author Page: Out of My Mind Reviews'. 2014 Sharon Draper. Retrieved 20 December 2014.
- ^'Kirkus Starred Review:OUT OF MY MIND'. 22 December 2010. Retrieved 20 December 2014.
- ^'Publishers Weekly: Out of My Mind'. PWxyz, LLC. Retrieved 20 December 2014.
- ^Frances Bradburn. 'Booklist Review: Out of My Mind'. 2014 Booklist Publications. Retrieved 20 December 2014.
- ^Claire Martin (7 March 2010). 'The Denver Post: Children's Books'. 2014 The Denver Post. Retrieved 20 December 2014.
- ^'The Horn Book (Bookverdict): Out of My Mind'. Media Source Book Verdict 2012. 1 March 2010. Retrieved 20 December 2014.
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Out of My Mind is a young adult novel written from the perspective of Melody Brooks, an eleven-year-old girl with cerebral palsy. Though Melody cannot walk, talk, or feed herself, she has a photographic memory and a witty personality. Melody’s intelligence is mostly unrecognized by society at large, because of ableist prejudice that makes people assume her physical impairment must also affect her mental capacity.
In the beginning of the novel, Melody reveals she has never spoken a single word. Though most people in Melody’s life underestimate her abilities, Melody’s parents can see the intelligence in her eyes. Mrs. V, Melody’s neighbor and after-school caregiver, also recognizes Melody’s brilliance. Mrs. V motivates Melody to achieve more than society expects of her. Together they build a more complex set of vocabulary words for Melody to point to on her Plexiglas communication board.
When she is five years old, Melody and her mother consult a specialist to determine if she should begin kindergarten. After the specialist, Dr. Hugely, administers flawed and biased tests, he determines that Melody is severely brain-damaged and mentally retarded. The doctor recommends that Melody’s parents put Melody in a care facility so they can get on with their lives without the burden of raising her. Melody’s mother tells the doctor off for his insensitivities and enrolls Melody at Spaulding Street Elementary.
Melody spends the next five years in the special needs classroom, room H-5. Though she had at first been excited to enter school, the lack of intellectual stimulation in the segregated special-needs class disappoints her. When Melody enters fifth grade, she receives an electric wheelchair, which gives her greater autonomy over her mobility. Melody’s teacher Mrs. Shannon starts an inclusion program to bring H-5 students into main-school classes. Having noticed Melody’s intelligence, Mrs. Shannon secures funding to hire an aide for Melody named Catherine, a university student who helps Melody take tests and participate in main-school classes. With the help of her support system—composed of Mrs. V, Catherine, and Melody’s parents—Melody receives a Medi-Talker, a communication device that enables her to speak.
Despite her newfound voice, Melody remains socially isolated. Even when Melody achieves a perfect score on the Whiz Kids practice quiz, Mr. Dimming, her history teacher, and her classmates Claire and Molly are skeptical of Melody’s participation. Despite the adversity Melody encounters, Melody trains for the qualifying test and achieves another perfect score, earning her a spot on the Whiz Kids quiz team. Though she falters with math questions, Melody proves herself to be an equal contender and helps Spaulding Street Elementary to win the southwest Ohio regional competition. Because of her disability, the news reporters at the competition lavish attention on Melody. Melody is confused by the idea that she is a media sensation, and she correctly predicts that her teammates will be jealous. Melody wishes she was treated as any normal kid.
On the morning of the Whiz Kids national finals in Washington, D.C., Melody’s family learns that their flight has been canceled due to a late-winter snowstorm. It is revealed that the rest of Melody’s team came to the airport early and managed to leave on the last flight out. Melody learns they had been together after having eaten breakfast as a group; Melody had been excluded from the breakfast because the group worried she would slow them down. Even though Melody overcame multiple barriers to help bring her team to Washington, the team’s continued prejudice against her disability means she is unable to attend the final. The equality Melody has sought remains elusive.
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In an effort not to feel sorry for herself, Melody decides the next day to attend school to see Catherine. In the chaos of trying to leave the house, Melody’s sister escapes out the front door while Melody and her mother are in their SUV. Without her Medi-Talker, Melody attempts to get her mother’s attention by kicking, shrieking, and scratching. Melody’s mother misunderstands the meaning of Melody’s outburst and reverses the vehicle until she hears a soft thud. In the accident, Penny suffers a broken leg and requires surgery.
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When Melody returns to school the following Monday, her classmates are glum. They attempt to assuage their guilt for having left her by giving her the tacky ninth-place trophy they received in Washington. Melody laughs at the gesture and knocks the trophy to the floor before rolling out of the classroom. The novel ends with Melody reflecting that, despite the obstacles her developmental difficulties present, her existential needs are not so dissimilar to those of most fifth graders. The narrative comes full circle when Melody begins composing her autobiography, the first lines of which comprise Out of My Mind’s opening chapter.