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Literature: Out of My Mind

A book for young readers by Sharon Draper about a young girl with cerebral palsy.

Eleven-year-old Melody has a photographic memory. Her head is like a video camera that is always recording. Always. And there’s no delete button. She’s the smartest kid in her whole school—but NO ONE knows it.

Most people—her teachers and doctors included—don’t think she’s capable of learning, and up until recently her school days consisted of listening to the same preschool-level alphabet lessons again and again and again. If only she could speak up, if only she could tell people what she thinks and knows. But she can’t. She can’t talk. She can’t walk. She can’t write.

Being stuck inside her head is making Melody go out of her mind—that is, until she discovers something that will allow her to speak for the first time ever. At last Melody has a voice... but not everyone around her is ready to hear it.

You can read some of Draper's thoughts on it, as well as an excerpt from the first chapter, on her website here.

Tropes

  • Alpha Bitches - Molly and Claire, who delight in making fun of Melody and the rest of the special education H-5 kids.
  • Buffy Speak: When Melody is a toddler, her dad brings her home a stuffed animal. Her parents try to see if she will reach for it, and Mom entices her with this line: "Look, Melody, Daddy brought you a play-pretty." As Melody herself says via narration, what the heck is that?
  • Crowning Moment of Heartwarming - The first time Melody speaks to her parents is almost guaranteed to be a Tear Jerker for anyone with a loved one who has a mental condition... or anyone with a soft heart.
    • Hi, Mom. Hi, Dad. I am so happy... I love you.
  • Disabled Means Helpless: Everyone in Melody's life, with the exception of Ms. V, seems to think this to some degree until Melody gets Elvira, her technological speaking device.
  • Downer Ending: One of the worst in children's literature. Occurs when the quiz team gets sent to state. They go out to breakfast together, purposely leaving Melody behind because they figure she'll slow them down since she cannot feed herself. By the time they've finished breakfast, the team's flight is scheduled to leave, which means Melody is left behind and does not get to compete.
  • Everybody Hates Mathematics - Math is Melody's one weakness, though it is justified as her being good with pictures and words... not numbers. She is able to do math by creating pictures in her head.
  • Hidden Depths: Because of the severity of her physical disability, many people believe Melody doesn't have preferences, or that she won't care that you don't know them. Some also take the limited expressions of emotions that she can manage, like screaming, as anger or noncompliance. They are shocked, then, to learn that Melody loves caramel-based desserts or candy and lemonade, her favorite music is country, and that she wants to dress in "cool clothes" like her classmates.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Boy, are they. Subverted, then double subverted, with Rose.
  • Mama Bear: Do NOT mess with Melody around her mother. She takes this so far as to snap a special ed teacher's nursery rhyme CD in half (see below) and read Melody's quiz team coach the riot act for leaving her out of the state competition.
  • Misplaced Kindergarten Teacher: One of the special education teachers, who "teaches" the kids the same things over and over, plays a nursery rhyme CD ad nauseam, and took six months to move from A to B in the alphabet, because she thought the kids didn't understand what an A was or sounded like. This could also count as * Stern Teacher, since this woman truly believes kids in special ed cannot learn, and is very vocal about it.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Melody references making "[her] handicapped face"—as in, assuming a flat, playing-dumb expression—around the doctor her mom took her to, and around anyone who she knows already thinks she's stupid.
  • Precious Puppies - Melody was just ecstatic to get little Butterscotch for her birthday.
  • Genius Cripple / Inspirationally Disabled - Our heroine, obviously. It's the whole point of the book.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Melody's favorite candy is butterscotch caramels, which provide the namesake for her dog. She also says she likes any sweets with caramel in them.
  • Unfortunate Implications: They run rampant. Among them: if you have a disability, you will be considered dumb, will have no friends, and will be pitied and pandered to by adults. Plus, there's the implication that any non-disabled person who acts friendly to you is putting on an act. Melody's doctor voices a big one when, during Melody's earlier childhood, he not only recommends institutionalization, but hands Melody's mom a brochure for a local one. (She tells him just where to put it, and leaves).
  • What Do You Mean It'sNotSymbolic?: The great escape of Melody's goldfish.


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alternative title(s): Out Of My Mind
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