The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

October 10, 2010

Jeana Gockley, Book review: Disabled girl’s story inspiring

By Jeana Gockley
Globe Columnist

JOPLIN, Mo. — ‘Out of My Mind’

By Sharon Draper

For grades 4-8

Eleven-year-old Melody Brooks is the smartest kid in her school. She has a photographic memory and she loves music, but no one knows these things about her because Melody cannot walk, talk or write.

Her communication skills are severely limited because she has cerebral palsy. While her whole body is sometimes in motion, the only parts of it she can control are her thumbs.

Melody’s life is relatively normal despite her limitations. She loves her patient, caring family, including her eccentric next-door neighbor and teacher, Mrs. Violet Valencia.

She attends elementary school, though she is relegated to a special education classroom where most of her teachers focus on reviewing preschool level activities year after year. She enjoys watching movies and listening to books, and she has fast-food cravings.

Most of all, she longs to be understood and make friends.

It is this longing that leads Melody to convince her parents to purchase the Medi-Talker, a special computer that will allow Melody to “speak” for the first time. Finally, Melody is able to communicate with others, and for the first time in her life people begin to notice her and not her disability.

She is soon the star of her school’s Whiz Kids quiz team and, even though she is the smartest kid on the team, a heartbreaking experience reminds her that it will take more than her Medi-Talker for people to accept her.

While this book is geared toward children in upper elementary and middle school, readers of all ages are sure to devour Melody’s story.

Coretta Scott King Award-winning author Sharon Draper has crafted an exceptional main character. The powerful voice that she assigns Melody is sure to encourage readers to think differently about people with disabilities and will aid in the fight to break down misconceptions about them.

Jeana Gockley is the children’s librarian at Joplin Public Library.