Out of My Mind – Cerebral Palsy

Out of My Mind

Sharon M. Draper, Author

Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Fiction, 2010

Suitable for:  Ages 10 to Adult

Themes:  Cerebral Palsy, Intelligence, Interpersonal Relationships

Opening “Words.  I’m surrounded by thousands of words.  Maybe millions.  Cathedral.  Mayonnaise.  Pomegrante…Words have always swirled around me like snowflakes — each one delicate and different, each one melting untouched in my hands.  Deep within me, words pile up in huge drifts.  Mountains of phrases and sentences and connected ideas.  Clever expressions and jokes.  Love songs.”  Melody’s head is full of words and sentences.   She is  11 years old and has never spoken one single word.  Melody has cerebral palsy and is trapped in a body that won’t do what she wants it to do.  She is confined to a wheel chair, unable to move, walk, talk, feed  and care for herself.  Melody has a photographic mind, and is a very smart.  But no one knows that except Melody.  No one knows that her favorite song is “Elvira.”

Draper has written a very compelling novel and has given us a rare glimpse into Melody’s world.  She shows Melody’s frustration in having doctors, teachers and people talking about her like she’s “profoundly retarded and unable to understand.”  Her frustration  and her inability to speak can lead to “tornado explosions,” which only reinforces their beliefs that she’s severely brain-damaged.  Melody says, “I live in a cage with no door and no key.”  “And, I have no way to tell someone how to get me out.”  Draper has created a very strong protagonist who simply will not give up and fights to find that key to unlock the cage so people will know she is there.   She’s tired of going to school and being put in a special education classes and taught the same nursery rhymes and songs year after year.   She wants to learn.  She’s hurt that no one wants to be a friend and deals with constant bullying when she participates in inclusion classes.

Fortunately for Melody, she has loving parents who advocate for her, and a neighbor who drills Melody every afternoon on words she has written on flash cards to help Melody communicate.   Melody is even more determined, and one day she discovers a special computer that can help her speak.  Melody world begins to change once she gets her Medi-talker.  She is catapulted into some exciting new adventures that are also fraught with disappointment.  But this very courageous girl now has a voice, and she’s not afraid to express her feelings.  Hooray for Melody!

After reading Draper’s very moving novel, I believe there are very important things Melody would want you to know when meeting or working with a child with special needs.  Don’t talk about them as if they are invisible.  Don’t assume that they are brain-damaged and aren’t intelligent.  Always assume they can hear or understand you even if they can’t communicate.  Look directly into  their eyes and talk to them as if they understand you.  Treat them with respect and dignity.  Don’ talk in a loud voice, talk normally.  Don’t look away if you feel awkward.  Smile and say hello.

Draper is “fiercely adamant that nobody feel sorry for Melody.” “I tried hard to make her unforgettable – someone you would never dare feel sorry for,” says Draper.  “I wanted her to be accepted as a person, not as a representative for people with disabilities.  Lots of people have worse difficulties in their lives. As readers embrace the story, I hope that they will cheer for her!”

Sharon Draper is a two-time Coretta Scott King Award-winning author, most recently for Copper Sun, and previously for Forged by Fire.   Visit this award-winning author, educator, speaker, poet and National Teacher of the Year at her website (click here).   Her website contains interviews and information about all of her books.

I also want to say a special thank you to Cathy Mealey for recommending this extraordinary book to me.  Out of My Mind is one of my favorite reads this year.

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About Patricia Tiltonhttp://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

55 thoughts on “Out of My Mind – Cerebral Palsy

  1. I watched a vlog about a girl with a similar condition yesterday, it is fascinating how they act and yet they are so aware of themselves and intelligent. Thank goodness for modern technology these days. Thanks Pat.

  2. What a powerful opening and evocative book cover. Thank you Pat (and Cathy) for reviewing this important story.

    It may have ben the same vlog as Catherine, that I saw last year. The teen girl didn’t have CP but all, including her parents, assumed very limited cognitive ability until she started to communicate on a computer. You may already have mentioned her on your blog, Pat.

    I love Draper’s determination to try and prevent a pity response to Melody! How important. This is a protagonist I want to meet and spend time with and understand! This is a book with a message for us all. When people are different we are often so quick to assume some lesser ability….

    It also reinforces much of what we have been reading about the way iPads have been used as communication tools for many children with different needs.

    I love this review and am also very happy to be introduced to a new author (for me!). Thank you, Pat.

    • Joanna, you always write such thoughtful comments. I’m really glad you found the book powerful — because it is powerful. Just couldn’t put it down. I have a great deal of respect for Draper for not evoking a pity response. There were times I felt Melody’s frustrations, but also just wanted to cheer her on and say “you can do that.” There is a very key event in the book, I left out as it would have been a major spoiler and I want people to experience the book. Yes, iPads and computer’s are opening up the world for so many children with autism and other special needs. And, the video you refer to was in a post I ran last April called “Carly’s Voice.” Her father has helped her write a book that will be out this spring. She has a huge FB following. Am grateful that Cathy enoucraged me to read Sharon’s book. She is an outstanding author and I can’t wait to read her other books. Thanks for your comments.

  3. I got very confused at first with this– I thought that the main character was the baby that the girl had in November Blues! This title is on our Battle of the Books list, so it’s been going out a log.

  4. I love Sharon Draper – I read Copper Sun. This book sounds really good. The story seems a little familiar – I think I may had read an article or seen a video somewhere about a girl in a similar situation whose father was instrumental in helping to realize she was trapped, like Melody, and helped get her the computer technology to begin to express herself to others… maybe she was even thinking of writing a book? I wish I could remember! Anyway, I’ll have to read this!

    • Susanna, I’m glad you enjoyed this book. I have just discovered Sharon Draper and am in awe of her skill as an author. This book was so well written! It’s a favorite reaad this year. I already have a copy of “Copper Sun” and look forward to reading it. I believe you’re thinking of Carly Fleischmann and the video “Carly’s Voice.” I did a post on Carly last April. In reviewing this book, I left out a significant event as I was afraid I would spoil it for the readers, but it really demonstrates the determination of this young girl.

  5. This sounds excellent — I’m so grateful you’ve found another worthy book about dealing with CP. I’ve just requested it through the province-wide library system, thanks to your recommendation.

    • Beth, glad you ordered the book. You won’t be able to put it down! Draper is an outstanding writer. Glad I didn’t give away too much of the story, because there are some twists and surprises.

    • Miranda, I hope you consider including this book. It is excellent book with a strong protagonist. We need to see more authors writing books with strong protagonists telling their story.

  6. I work with people who have cerebral palsey. You described it perfectly…normal on the inside as far as thinking and mentality go, but trapped within a body that will not obey your mind. It’s very frustrating for these people. One of my clients has to communicate through Morse code by tapping head switches.

    • Michael, thank you for sharing your work. I had no idea you work with CP kids. So, you are in a position of really knowing the frustration they feel. And, I think Sharon Draper wrote one outstanding novel with such a feisty and determined protagonist. I haven’t heard of Morse code being used. I know computers and iPads are opening up the world for so many children with special needs, especially autism. Thanks for commenting.

  7. Pat, I am happy to learn that this book resonated with you the same way that it did for me. My son has autism, not CP, but he too is unable to verbally express himself. As a parent I often struggle to imagine what he may be thinking and feeling, and wonder if I am interpreting his nonverbal signals correctly. I found Melody’s perspective and voice were encouraging, refreshing and honest.

    I’d love to see middle school and high school students reading this book with the passion they often have for wizard and vampire series!

    • Cathy, I’m so delighted you recommended this book. I could not put it down, it was so good. I hope one day you are able to find a way to communicate with your son. Technology is making so much possible. This book should be mandatory in the school library. It was hard for me not to give away the best parts of the story, so I hope I wrote enough to inspire others to read it and realize how gifted Melody really is. — Pat

  8. Hi Pat, my academic group here in Singapore is Early Childhood and Special Needs education – and while I specialize in gifted and talented education, I am also on the active lookout for books that would showcase the realities of children/ young adults who belong to the other end of the spectrum/continuum so that I could recommend these titles to our preservice teachers who need to know about these things such as what’s beautifully communicated in this book.

    I am truly glad to have discovered your site, Patricia. I have bookmarked this post of yours, and I will go back to it and recommend this book to others.

    • Myra, I’m glad this book will be helpful for your educational staff in Singapore who are working with such special children. “Out of My Mind” would also be a good read for the kids you teach, as they need an understanding of the the special needs spectrum. Great classroom book. Since you are always looking out for recommendations, you might take a glance back at my blog posts in 2011. I have reviewed a lot of wonderful books on autism, ADHD/ADD, very early grade books for kids with sensory issues, OCD, Downs Syndrome and many more. Unfortunately my Topic tags don’t always show the subjects.

      And, thank you for adding “Out of My Mind” to the Comment Challenge 2012-Gathering Books. I’m sure the author would be pleased.

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  10. This is an important book. My mom works at a children’s hospital and she encourages me to just go up and talk to kids that have disabilities rather than just wondering about them. Is the book OK for younger readers, A.K.A. me?

    • Yes Erik, this book is one that you can read. Melody is 11 years old. There are no bad words, just mean and inconsiderate kids who tease her. Actually, I think you’d really like this book and find strength in Melody’s character. It’s a book of determination and perseverance. Check out the author’s website too. Awesome books.

    • Lee, thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. Glad you liked the review of “Out of My Mind!” It is a powerful story with a very important message. I enjoyed participating in the 2012 Comment Challenge. Brilliant idea. Met some very interesting writers and bloggers. – Pat

    • Leigh, thanks for stopping. Glad you liked the selection. It is a treasure. The emotion I felt was anger towards the teasing, but I really found myself thinking “Go Melody, you can do this.”

    • Jenny, this is a bookI think you would like reading. It is not a pity book. It shows a determined child, you want to cheer. I have only found two books written on CP. We need strong protagonists like this. And, if you have time check out Sharon Draper’s website — a remarkable author!

  11. After reading your review I went to put the book on my wish list–turns out it was already there (my list is way too long!), but now I’m going to bump it to the top! Thanks for the review Patricia :)

  12. Pat,
    I loved your review of this book. I cannot imagine what it must be like as either the parent or the child. As the main character is an 11 year old girl, I wonder if this would be appropriate to read with my daughter who is 10. We just read Mockingbird, by Katherine Erskine, together. The main character has Asperger’s and I thought it was a great way to introduce my daughter to a child (11 years old in the story) who was different. We were able to laugh together, cry (at least I did) and most importantly talk through questions as we walked through this new territory together.

    • Tracy, I would read this book to your 10-year-old daughter and discuss it with her. It’s on the level of Mockingbird, an excellent book. The protagonist is so feisty and determined that you’ll want to cheer her on. It is so important that your daughter not be afraid to say hello to someone who is different. She will find that Melody love music, but she just can’t tell anyone. But, once she starts talking on her computer, kids realize how smart she is. If you are familiar with Carly Fleischmann, who is autistic but can’t speak, type in her name on the internet and you can show your daughter how she was able to communicate. It will help her understand. Hope your read Sharon Draper’s book, as it is outstanding.

  13. Thanks Pat. She’s in the middle of a Battle of the Books right now, but I’m going to write down the title and read it with her once she’s done. She loved reading with me and that was just as great of an experience as the Mockingbird story itself.

    • I think it is great that you still read together, especially books that are a little more challenging. My daughter is in her 20s, and insisted on reading the last Harry Potter book with me a few years ago. We actully had a ball.

    • Glad you checked out my blog. Happy you liked the book. I’m always searching for new books — you may consider writing one as there is only one other I’ve reviewed in November on mild CP, “Reaching for Sun.”
      Just looked at your beautiful children. Zoe is adorable. There aren’t many books on CP. Her best therapy may be her three sisters and brothers. I love your attitude.

      • i have a friend who has for years been encouraging me to write a book, but i couldn’t think of a theme. thanks for stirring the embers of interest again – because you’re right – it’s very difficult to find books about CP. i once found a children’s book about a kid with a brain injury. it was great for my children’s age but i’d love to see more books that show how families work to integrate their child into the family – how they adapt activities so that inclusivity for all is a part of the family’s mission. and i’d love for the book to be fun/inviting vs. sterile/overtly educational. anyhoo – thanks for all the book recommendations – i forwarded them on – kjo

      • You are welcome. Need picture books on the subject, especally since Zoe will be going to school and wears leg braces. Love your picture of your little girls dangling their legs. It speaks volumes. Hope you think about it.

  14. I loved the way Draper was able to convey Melody’s world so beautifully. My only disappointment was the scene that came near the end of the book involving the younger sibling and a car (I don’t want to spoil it). I felt it pushed the plot a little too far. I already felt a tremendous climax with the contest results.

    I’m a new follower of this blog, so I don’t know if you’ve written about it here or not, but “Rules” by Cynthia Lord is also brilliant. Most reviews mention the brother who has autism, but I think Catherine’s relationship with Jason (the boy she meets at her brother’s speech therapy) is equally significant and important. When Catherine draws word cards for Jason that allowed him to be a “regular kid” I was blown away. I remember a scene when Jason and his mother walk into the room and she’s saying “Don’t you whatever me young man!” I laughed and cried at the same time. All of the adults had given him words they wanted him to have such as yes, no, thank you. Catherine gave him “Whatever.” I was so happy he was able to back talk his mom.

    • Michelle, I’m glad you’ve read her boook and liked it. I know the place you are talking about. It did catch me off guard, and I was concerned Melody would feel it was her fault and reinforce what she couldn’t do. Yes, the contest and her reaction was a great climax. I have read and reviewed “Rules.” It was another great story with a lot of humor. Thank you for stopping by.

    • MiMi, I agree, Draper writes excellent YA books. I can’t wait to read her other books as I imagine that they are powerful reads. Couldn’t believe how well she got into Melody’s world. Thanks for stopping. – Pat

  15. Powerful story. Your synopsis makes me want to grab the book right now and read. I will add it to my list to share. So glsd to have met you through the comment challenge.

    • MaryHelen, I am glad you enjoyed this powerful story. Check out her website, as she has a long list of books she’s written. Yes, glad to meet you through the comment challenge. Thank you for visiting.

  16. I am racing to catch up with my blog commenting……. Wow! This is one powerful story. Liked that it is told from Melody’s point of view, and how wonderful what technology can do to bridge the gap of communication and understanding. We need more books like this….. Pat, your review made us sit up and take notice…. thankyou.

    • Diane, thanks for still taking the time to comment Diane — know you’re busy. Yes, this is a powerful book and I’m glad it had an impact on you. Sharon Draper is an outstanding author with many more wonderful books. We need to see strong protagonist with special needs who demonstrate such determination and strength of character.

  17. This is one of the best books that I read in 2011. It was on our Texas Bluebonnet Award list, so many of my students read it as well. All of the students that I spoke with (who are close to Melody’s age) were moved by this story and felt great empathy for Melody. It is wonderful to see such compassion in our children. I think the children in our school are especially compassionate because we have a life skills class on our campus and an inclusion program. It is truly amazing to watch these kids thrive in the classroom.

    • Kelly, I’m so glad to hear from someone who has used Sharon’s book in their classroom. There are kids who tease, but there are also a lot of compassionate kids willing to be supportive. I’m glad that the children were moved by the book. I agree with you, this is one of the best books I read this past year. I hope the author reads all of the lovely feedback. I communicated with her last week and she was very gracious.

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