Out of My Mind

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About The Book

Over 1.5 million people have read the #1 New York Times bestseller Out of My Mind and discovered the brilliant mind of Melody Brooks.

Out of My Mind spent two years on the New York Times bestseller list!

“If there’s one book teens and parents (and everyone else) should read this year, Out of My Mind should be it.” —Denver Post
“A gutsy, candid, and compelling story. It speaks volumes.” —School Library Journal (starred review)
“Unflinching and realistic.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Uplifting…This moving novel will makes activists of us all.” —Booklist (starred review)

From multiple award-winning author Sharon Draper comes a story that will forever change how we all look at anyone with a disability, perfect for fans of RJ Palacio’s Wonder.

Eleven-year-old Melody is not like most people. She can’t walk. She can’t talk. She can’t write. All because she has cerebral palsy. But she also has a photographic memory; she can remember every detail of everything she has ever experienced. She’s the smartest kid in her whole school, but NO ONE knows it. Most people—her teachers, her doctors, her classmates—dismiss her as mentally challenged because she can’t tell them otherwise. But Melody refuses to be defined by her disability. And she’s determined to let everyone know it…somehow.

Reading Group Guide

A Reading Group Guide to Out of My Mind
by Sharon M. Draper

Discussion Topics

1. The novel opens with a powerful discussion of the power of words and language. How does this help capture the reader’s attention? What predictions can the reader make about the narrator of the story? What inferences can be made about the thought processes of the narrator’s mind?

2. In a world that does not work for her, what seems to cause the biggest frustrations for Melody?

3. Describe Melody’s parents. How do they learn to communicate with Melody and help her to overcome everyday problems? Why are those efforts sometimes a complete failure?

4. How does Melody feel about school? How does she fit in with her classmates and what makes her different from the rest of the children in H-5? What would be Melody’s ideal school situation?

5. Discuss Melody’s teachers since she began going to school. What does this say about her school system, or about attitudes at her school about teaching children with special needs?

6. Describe Mrs. V. What role does she play in Melody’s development? Why is she a necessary addition to Melody’s life?

7. What is significant about the story of Ollie the fish? How does Ollie’s life mirror Melody’s? Describe Melody’s feelings when she is unable to tell her mother what really happened.

8. Describe how the introduction of Penny as a character changes the family dynamics. Analyze Melody’s complicated feelings about her little sister.

9. How does the inclusion program change Melody’s school experiences? Describe both positive and negative results of the program. Describe Melody’s deep, unrealized need for a friend.

10. What does Melody learn about friendship during the trip to the aquarium? Make a comparison between Ollie’s life, the life of the fish in the aquarium, and Melody’s life.

11. How does Melody’s computer change her life, her outlook on life, and her potential? Why does she name it Elvira?

12. Why does Melody decide to enter the quiz team competition? What obstacles must she face and overcome just to get on the team?

13. What does Melody learn about friendship and the relationships of children working together as she practices and competes with the quiz team? What does she learn about herself?

14. What is ironic about the events at the restaurant after the competition? How does this scene foreshadow the events that led up to the airport fiasco?

15. Describe Melody’s feelings before the trip to the airport, while she is there, and after she gets home. How would you have coped with the same situation?

16. Describe Melody’s extreme range of emotions as she tries to tell her mother that Penny is behind the car. How did the scene make you feel?

17. Discuss the scene in which Melody confronts the kids on the quiz team. What is satisfying about how she handles the situation? What else might Melody have done?

18. Why is the first page repeated at the end of the book? How has Melody changed, both personally and socially, from the beginning of the book to the end?

19. How would this story have been different if it had been written from a third-person point of view; from the point of view of her parents, for example, or simply from the viewpoint of an outside observer?

20. Explain the title of the novel. Give several possible interpretations.

Activities and Research

1. Put yourself in Melody’s chair. Write a paper that tells what it would be like to be Melody for one day. Write about your feelings and frustrations.

2. Investigate the problems of children with cerebral palsy, especially those that are of school age. How does it affect the child socially, academically, and personally?

3. Investigate the possible causes of cerebral palsy, and what preventative measures, if any, can be taken by the mother.

4. Research current laws for inclusion of children with disabilities into classrooms. What effect, if any, do such things have on a school community?

5. Research current treatment options or communication devices for young people like Melody.

6. Write a letter to one of the characters in the book explaining your feelings about the events in the story. What advice would you give Melody, Rose, Mr. D, or Mrs. V?

7. Describe the relationship between the able-bodied children and Melody. Would you describe it as a true friendship? When situations become monumental and overwhelming to young people, what is likely to happen? Explain.

8. Imagine it is the last day of fifth grade. Write a letter or create a conversation between one of the following pairs of characters:

  • Rose and Melody
  • Melody and Mrs. V
  • Melody and Catherine
  • Mr. D and Melody
  • Melody and Claire

9. Trace the story of one of the following characters. Imagine you are a reporter doing a story on one of their lives. Write everything you know, as well as whatever you can infer about the character in order to write your magazine article.

  • Claire
  • Mrs. V
  • Mr. Dimming
  • Rose
  • Penny

10. You are a reporter at one of the following scenes. Write the story for your newspaper.

  • Student with Disabilities makes Quiz Team
  • Child Struck by Family Car
  • Big Storm Grounds Air Traffic
  • Local Quiz Team Wins Big

This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.

 

About The Author

Photo Credit:

Sharon M. Draper is a New York Times bestselling author and recipient of the Margaret A. Edwards Award honoring her significant and lasting contribution to writing for teens. She has received the Coretta Scott King Award for both Copper Sun and Forged by Fire, and was most recently awarded the Charlotte Huck Award for Stella by Starlight. Her novel Out of My Mind has won multiple awards and was a New York Times bestseller for over three years. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she taught high school English for twenty-five years and was named National Teacher of the Year. Visit her at SharonDraper.com.

Raves and Reviews

Eleven-year-old Melody Brooks has a photographic memory, synesthesia, and cerebral palsy. She can’t speak or feed herself, and her motor skills are limited to whatever her thumbs can manage. The neighbor woman who takes care of Melody while her parents work is determined that Melody will learn as much as possible, and she works tirelessly to expand the girl’s vocabulary. Eventually, with the help of a communication device, Melody manages to show her teachers and classmates just how much she knows. The premise of Melody’s cognitive skills being trapped in a minimally functioning body recalls Trueman’s Stuck in Neutral (BCCB 6/00), and the theme retains its fascination; Draper’s smooth style enhances the story, and there’s a romantic element to the notion that Melody isn’t simply capable but actually gifted. The drama is overplayed, though, with Melody’s abilities implausibly superlative. Melody’s school experiences are somewhat anachronistic, and her classmates are little more than a collection of clichés, from the special needs kids who are unfailingly kind and noble to the normal kids who are outspokenly rude. Draper is a master of melodrama, though, and Melody’s story certainly doesn’t lack that; she may not be a particularly believable character, but she’s an interesting one, and her plight will do its work of making students think twice about their classmates, acquaintances, and siblings with special needs. -- BULLETIN, March 1, 2010

*Born with cerebral palsy, Melody, 10, has never spoken a word. She is a brilliant fifth grader trapped in an uncontrollable body. Her world is enhanced by insight and intellect, but gypped by physical limitations and misunderstandings. She will never sing or dance, talk on the phone, or whisper secrets to her friends. She’s not complaining, though; she’s planning and fighting the odds. In her court are family, good neighbors, and an attentive student teacher. Pitted against her is the “normal” world: schools with limited resources, cliquish girls, superficial assumptions, and her own disability. Melody’s life is tragically complicated. She is mainly placed in the special-ed classroom where education means being babysat in a room with replayed cartoons and nursery tunes. Her supportive family sets her up with a computer. She learns the strength of thumbs as she taps on a special keyboard that finally lets her “talk.” When she is transitioned into the regular classroom, Melody’s undeniable contribution enables her class to make it to the national quiz team finals. Then something happens that causes her to miss the finals, and she is devastated by her classmates’ actions. Kids will benefit from being introduced to Melody and her gutsy, candid, and compelling story. It speaks volumes and reveals the quiet strength and fortitude it takes to overcome disabilities and the misconceptions that go with them. –School Library Journal STARRED REVIEW

*Fifth-grader Melody has cerebral palsy, a condition that affects her body but not her mind. Although she is unable to walk, talk, or feed or care for herself, she can read, think, and feel. A brilliant person is trapped inside her body, determined to make her mark in the world in spite of her physical limitations. Draper knows of what she writes; her daughter, Wendy, has cerebral palsy, too. And although Melody is not Wendy, the authenticity of the story is obvious. Told in Melody's voice, this highly readable, compelling novel quickly establishes her determination and intelligence and the almost insurmountable challenges she faces. It also reveals her parents' and caretakers' courage in insisting that Melody be treated as the smart, perceptive child she is, and their perceptiveness in understanding how to help her, encourage her, and discourage self-pity from others. Thoughtless teachers, cruel classmates, Melody's unattractive clothes ("Mom seemed to be choosing them by how easy they'd be to get on me"), and bathroom issues threaten her spirit, yet the brave Melody shines through. Uplifting and upsetting, this is a book that defies age categorization, an easy enough read for upper-elementary students yet also a story that will enlighten and resonate with teens and adults. Similar to yet the antithesis of Terry Trueman's Stuck in Neutral (2000), this moving novel will make activists of us all. –Booklist STARRED REVIEW

Melody Brooks, in a wheelchair and unable to speak, narrates this story about finding her voice. The first half of the book catalogues Melody's struggles—from her frustration with learning the same preschool lessons year after year to her inability to express a craving for a Big Mac. Draper, whose daughter has cerebral palsy, writes with authority, and the rage behind Melody's narrative is perfectly illustrated in scenes demonstrating the startling ignorance of many professionals (a doctor diagnoses Melody as “profoundly retarded”), teachers, and classmates. The lack of tension in the plot is resolved halfway through when Melody, at age 10, receives a talking computer, allowing her to “speak.” Only those with hearts of stone won't blubber when Melody tells her parents “I love you” for the first time. Melody's off-the-charts smarts are revealed when she tests onto her school's quiz bowl team, and the story shifts to something closer to The View from Saturday than Stuck in Neutral. A horrific event at the end nearly plunges the story into melodrama and steers the spotlight away from Melody's determination, which otherwise drives the story. Ages 10–up. (Mar.) –Publishers Weekly

Unflinching and realistic...Rich in details of both the essential normalcy and the difficulties of a young person with cerebral palsy. –Kirkus STARRED REVIEW

This powerful story by a two-time Coretta Scott King winner offers a wrenching insight into so many vital lives that the able-bodied overlook. If there's only one book teens and parents (and everyone else) can read this year, "Out of My Mind" should be it. --The Denver Post

"Like Stephen Hawking, who becomes her hero, Melody discovers that her inner strength and intelligence are more reliable than most of the humans around her. She becomes an activist for herself, even as Draper challenges those who read her story to become activists for those who are different." -The Columbus Dispatch

Awards and Honors

  • ILA Teachers' Choices
  • Maud Hart Lovelace Award Master List (MN)
  • CCBC Choices (Cooperative Children's Book Council)
  • South Carolina Book Award Nominee
  • ILA Young Adults' Choices
  • Bank Street Best Books of the Year
  • William Allen White Children's Book Award Master List (KS)
  • Massachusetts Children's Book Award
  • Maud Hart Lovelace Book Award (MN)
  • Garden State Teen Book Award Nominee (NJ)
  • Maine Student Book Award Master List
  • Colorado Children's Book Award Master List
  • Mark Twain Award (MO)
  • Californa Young Reader Medal
  • Great Stone Face Book Award Master List (NH)
  • NAACP Image Award Nominee
  • NCTE Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts
  • Texas Lone Star Reading List
  • Rebecca Caudill Award Master List (IL)
  • Prairie Pasque Award (SD)
  • Nene Award Master List (HI)
  • Buckeye Children's Book Award Nominee (OH)
  • Golden Sower Masterlist (NE)
  • Kirkus Best Children's Book
  • Texas Bluebonnet Master List
  • Dorothy Canfield Fisher Book Award Master List (VT)
  • Georgia Children's Book Award Nominee
  • Volunteer State Book Award (TN)
  • Nevada Young Readers' Award
  • North Carolina Children's Book Award Master List
  • Parents' Choice Award Silver Medal
  • Land of Enchantment Children's Book Award (NM)
  • Young Hoosier Book Award (IN)
  • Nutmeg Children's Book Award (CT)
  • Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Award
  • Black Eyed Susan Book Award (MD)
  • Sasquatch Reading Award (WA)
  • Sunshine State Young Reader's Award
  • Flicker Tale Children's Book Award (ND)
  • Great Lakes Book Award
  • Choose to Read Ohio Booklist Selection
  • Utah Beehive Book Award Winner
  • Virginia Readers’ Choice Award
  • Bluestem Book Award (IL)
  • Josette Frank Award (Bank Street)
  • Japan Sakura Award
  • Ohioana Book Award Finalist
  • Michigan Mitten Award Honor
  • TX Triple Crown Lamplighter Award

Resources and Downloads

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More books from this author: Sharon M. Draper