OUT OF MY MIND by Sharon Draper

Yesterday afternoon went something like this:

Sit on dock.
Get too hot to read.
Jump in lake.
Dry off for five minutes to avoid dripping on library book.

Eventually, I finished this book…

…and then I sighed and just held onto it for a few minutes. (Don’t worry, library people…I was dry by then.)  Sharon Draper’s OUT OF MY MIND is definitely one of the best books I’ve read so far this year.

The narrator of this middle grade novel is Melody, a fifth grader who is smart, spirited, and funny.  Melody is almost eleven and has never walked on her own or spoken a single word because she was born with cerebral palsy.  Being inside her head makes it a little easier to understand what it’s like to feel trapped inside a body that doesn’t work right, and readers will indeed feel Melody’s frustration, anger, triumph, and determination.

Melody tells her life story, a story of parents who try their hardest, doctors who didn’t understand and a wonderful neighbor who always did, a little sister who seemed to be born perfect, a school that sometimes fails her, and classmates who react to her in ways that are heartbreaking and authentic.  All of that leads up to fifth grade — the year Melody begins to leave her special education classroom for inclusion classes and starts using a piece of assistive technology that helps her communicate.  The new computer empowers her to try out for the school’s quiz team, and she surprises her classmates and her teacher with her performance.

Without giving too much away, I have to say that the last fifty pages of this book absolutely floored me.  What happened was not what I expected, and yet it was exactly what needed to happen for this book to pack the real and powerful punch that it does.  Sharon Draper’s OUT OF MY MIND is smart, funny, touching, and dare I say it… really important.  It’s a book that will open minds.  And even though Melody is a little younger than the 7th graders I teach, this is definitely going to be one of the books I share as a read-aloud with my students this year. 

You should read it, too — especially if you work with kids, but really, even if you don’t.  This is one you really don’t want to miss.