Appearances are often misleading, as is evident from the case of 11-year-old Melody Brooks, in the book Out of my Mind by Sharon Draper. Melody has cerebral palsy, a condition that affects movement and muscle tone or posture. It is caused by brain damage and such children not only look different but are unable to talk, walk or feed themselves.
Melody, though physically impaired and unable to speak, has a photographic memory and can retain a lot of facts. She is ably helped by her loving parents and Mrs. V (her next-door neighbour who babysits Melody when her parents are at work). She also interacts well with her baby sister, Penny and her dog, Butterscotch. She is a part of the special children’s class at school and is then partly integrated with normal kids when she enters 5th grade. She is assigned a personal aide, Catherine, who is kind to her and helps her during her school hours.
The other children in the class are wary of Melody due to her unusual appearance and believe that her impairment is mental as well as physical. Melody then procures a Medi-Talker (a device which can ‘speak’ for people who are speech-impaired) which makes it easier for her to communicate with her fellow students, surprising them with her language skills.
Her brilliance is further revealed when she participates in the school quiz and is ultimately chosen to go with her team to New York for the final competition! However, the sole focus on Melody when her team wins the first step in the quiz competition makes her teammates feel resentful towards her. This depresses her, and she yearns to be ‘normal’.
So how does Melody overcome this disheartening situation? What happens at the final stage of the quiz? Does her team members accept her for who she is, or do they continue to treat her like an outcast? The novel answers these questions, and more!
The author Sharon Draper is herself a mother of a child with cerebral palsy and brings out the frustration of the child trapped inside a body out of her control very well. Her writing is simple and focuses on Melody’s growth from a child with a limited scope of interaction to one who can articulate very well (through her Medi-Talker, though!). She throws an unflinching spotlight on the way both adults and children judge ‘special children’.
Children like Melody need to fight doubly hard to find their place in the world since doing several seemingly ordinary things (talking, walking, eating etc.) can be struggling for these kids. The novel demonstrates that empathy is essential when dealing with the less fortunate among us.
Go ahead! Allow this book to touch your heart and show you that most things that matter are invisible to the eyes!
Melody suffers from cerebral palsy, a condition that affects movement and muscle tone or posture. Melody, though physically impaired and unable to speak, has a photographic memory and is able to retain a lot of facts. Her brilliance is further revealed later in the book when she wins a competition. However, the sole focus on Melody when her team wins makes her teammates feel resentful towards her. Do they continue to treat her like an outcast?
- Easy to understand
- Depicts the child’s battles effectively
- Shows some of the trials faced by the caregivers’ too
- The other classmates and teachers are fairly one-dimensional characters
- The atrocious quality of the special educators, as well as the school teachers, seems unbelievable
- The fact that medical professionals do not discern her high IQ is a little far-fetched
- The twin tragic incidents occurring at the end of the novel appear unnecessary
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