Sunday, February 27, 2011

Out of My Mind

Carey Vance, a librarian at the Burbank Public Library in Burbank, California recommended that I read Out of My Mind, by Coretta Scott King award winning author, Sharon M. Draper.

An excellent and detailed review of the 2010 middle grade novel, has been written by Jan Van Harz. It can be found on the above link to Sharon M. Draper's blog.

From the very first page of this novel, we understand what ten and three-quarters year-old Melody wants, that is to communicate her words. Like Shawn McDaniel in the YA novel Stuck in Neutral, by Terry Trueman, Melody has cerebral palsy and cannot speak, cannot walk, cannot feed herself or go to the bathroom independently. But she has a brilliant mind. The story is about her fight to express herself through words. Along the way, she encounters great resistance from certain teachers, and from Dr. Hugely, a doctor who cannot see Melody as anything but "retarded."

In Dr. Hugely, Draper has created a quintessential incompetent doctor. He is insensitive, not smart, fails to relate to Melody in any useful way and has bad taste in clothes to boot. Early in the novel, after testing her, he recommends custodial care in a nursing facility to relieve Melody's family of a "burden."

Mom disagrees, " . . . I think you're wrong," she says. " . . . Melody has more brains than you'll ever have, despite those fancy degrees from fancy schools." Any reader will see he deserves this.

For the purpose of this novel, Dr. Hugely is a somewhat exaggerated character. But the mother's having to speak her mind to this powerful figure as Melody's advocate rang true. All families have to do this in real life, as doctors as well as authority figures at school can be seen as intimidating. So when her mother speaks up for what Melody needs, and later when Melody does the same through the use of a computer, I cheered.

1 comment:

  1. Janice,
    I really love this book! I agree about the exaggerated aspects of the doctor's character. In the course I teach at our local community college (about young children with special needs), my students have to interview a parent of a child with special needs. Many parents do report feeling intimidated and sometimes misunderstood, so I'm glad that Draper included that aspect in her novel.

    Congrats on your new blog-- what a great idea! I look forward to reading more.

    --Mary Cronin