Sunday, January 14, 2018

Out of My Mind

January 14, 2018

A couple of years ago at the CATE conference I attended, I had the pleasure of hearing author Sharon Draper speak and read from her book, Out of My Mind.  She was incredibly engaging, and not surprisingly, a wonderful storyteller.  I actually got to meet her and she autographed a copy of her novel for me.

 It's a Young Adult novel, which I try to read quite a bit of in order to make good recommendations to my students.  This novel is about a fifth grade girl with an incredible mind who suffers from cerebral palsy.  Her condition, in addition to severely affecting her mobility, disrupts her ability to speak.  Doctors and teachers alike treat her as if she is incapable of much mental processing at all, although her mother, her beloved neighbor, and a couple of her teachers see a spark that shows she is able to process a good deal more than she can communicate.  When she finally gets a computer that allows her to "speak", she and those around her learn about her photographic memory and her incredible intelligence.

The writing style is engaging and keeps the reader invested.  Even though I was sure a couple of times I knew where the plot was going, there were a couple of plot turns that I didn't see coming, and I appreciated that.  Draper doesn't turn this book into a "And everyone who had ever treated her badly repented and became wonderful human beings" or even a "Melody was perfect and amazing and when she got her computer, she was even more perfect and amazing" kind of book.  Melody, the protagonist, has a disability but she isn't idealized.  She's allowed to be a typical 5th grader, with some ugly stubborness and moodiness, as well as empathy and reflectiveness.  She's also surrounded by people who are flawed and human--who sometimes make big mistakes.  They are 'real' humans dealing with the kind of real-life emotions that the rest of us go through.  It's not always an easy road, but we appreciate that we are on it with folks who respond like people we might know.

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