Tween Tuesday is a weekly meme created by GreenBeanTeenQueen, one of my favorite blogs. Surprise, surprise - it features books aimed at Tweens.
Out Of My Mind by Sharon Draper
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, because Melody 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.
From multiple Coretta Scott King Award winner Sharon M. Draper comes a story full of heartache and hope. Get ready to meet a girl whose voice you'll never, ever forget.(courtesy of Goodreads)
Melody is trapped in her own body. Born with cerebral palsey, she is unable to perform most of the basic physical functions that the rest of us take for granted. But her mind is completely normal - actually, it's significantly above normal. However, almost no one realizes that she has any intellectual capabilities. She attends school as part of the special education program, being partially integrated into the regular classroom, where kids are outright mean or awkwardly nice. When she gets a device that enables her to "speak" for the first time in her 11 years, people are shocked that she is like anyone else. And not ready to accept it.
Melody is a delightful, observant girl. Her physical challenges and pure intellect enhance her other senses - she sees, smells, and hears things that the rest of us don't notice. She also has a real gift for reading people, enhanced unfortunately by people's negative interactions with her. She finds enjoyment in life but also is, understandably, incredibly frustrated. I can almost physically feel Melody's frustration, her "tornadoes", with her. The difficulties of not being able to express yourself are unimaginable.
I think every child should read this book. Preferably with a parent or teacher to discuss as the book goes along. Draper does not sugarcoat Melody's life. She is blessed with parents, a neighbor, and some teachers who love her dearly, understand her, and fight for her. Her mother is a true hero. But she also experiences hate and ignorance that no child should have to go through - from other kids, from doctors, and from teachers. The story is often heartbreaking as Melody is let down repeatedly. But her innate sense of self and her loving family also keeps her strong.
This book changed the way I think of disabled children (forgive me if I don't use the most politically correct terms; I'm trying the best I can). We get to know Melody and her classmates, who have Down's Syndome, autism, and other physical and mental disabilities, as people, not just as labels. We realize how they sad and frustrated they get at cruelty and inadequate education. We see their joy when they have fun and are accepted. In my head I know that differently-abled children have emotions just like everyone else, but it's so much more powerful when reading Draper's book. I really feel what they're feeling. It makes me want to get involved in the special education system, to advocate for disabled children, and to just be a kinder person. I hope everyone will feel this way as they read this book.