Sunday, March 14, 2010
OUT OF MY MIND by Sharon M. Draper
Sharon Draper is one of my favorite authors. Her books usually focus on high school characters living through high school problems. OUT OF MY MIND heads in a different direction. The main character is faced with the daily struggle of living with severe cerebral palsy. Draper takes readers into a world most can't even come close to imagining.
Melody is trapped not only in a wheelchair but also in her own body. She has very little control over her physical functions. She can't walk, can't feed herself, but the worst thing is she can't communicate beyond grunts, squeals, and unreliable facial expressions.
People might think her biggest problems are her obvious physical disabilities, but if Melody could speak, she would reveal that she is actually a very smart young girl. She has a photographic memory and from as early as she can remember she has been learning words and storing them away. She learned her alphabet, how to count, and gained early reading skills just like every other youngster whose parents sat them in front of the TV to watch Sesame Street. Melody even has a fairly decent command of a second language, Spanish, thanks to the cultural diversity of preschool TV programming. The fact remains, no one knows because Melody can't tell them.
Fortunately, Melody's parents sense that their child is intelligent and capable of learning just like every other child, maybe even more. They speak for Melody and insist she attend public school. It hasn't always been successful because school officials place Melody in a special education room where the teachers haven't always given her the attention she deserves. With the help of one devoted teacher, a college teacher's aide, and a loving neighbor, Melody is given a chance to learn and also a chance to speak in her own unique way.
Melody's world opens even more when she is mainstreamed into several regular classrooms. She gains confidence and the knowledge that she is as smart as or smarter than many kids her age. With the academic playing field on the level with her peers, she is able to show off her skills and make some friends. However, even though fitting in and being "normal" may be her greatest desire, but it might prove to be an impossible dream.
My heart went out to Melody as she struggled to communicate with those around her. Sharon Draper captures the frustration Melody faces every moment of every day. Even though Draper provides a supportive family for Melody, she also shows the frustration of raising a child like Melody. With a direct and frank approach, Draper reveals the ups and downs of dealing with cerebral palsy. Draper covers everything from the physical challenges to the crushing guilt associated with having and raising a child with the condition in her trademark Draper style.