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Children's Literature @ NYPL
Book Talk: Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper
I only wanted to be understood—to be more than the small girl in the pink wheel chair with no control over her own body.
I am the girl who cannot walk, cannot talk, or do anything by herself. I am trapped in my own body. My world is colorful and vibrant, but I am invisible and hidden in plain sight.People talk about me like I am not even there. I want them to talk to me. I want them to see me—not stare at me. I want the to know me—not know about me.
The only place that I am free is in my dreams, but dreams fade when you open your eyes. I thought that having a voice would make it easier to be heard. Turns out, being heard is not the same thing as being understood.
Out of My Mind creates a succinct portrait of life from Melody's point of view. The author does not present her in a way that evokes pity, though there are some emotional moments. The reader is there through her frustrations and her triumphs. Challenge and adversity are inevitable parts of life; no one knows this better than Melody, who relies on her caregivers for almost anything. Her physical body may not be under her control, but she can think, dream, and imagine. Melody wants what any other child wants: friendship, fun, and a "normal" life. More than anything, she desires to be her own person; she does not want to be defined by her disability. Melody wants to be recognized for her abilities.
Sharon M. Draper is a five-time Coretta Scott King Award winning writer with other numerous honors for her work. She has written more than 25 novels for children and teens and has published multiple poems, articles, and books about teaching. Sharon M. Draper also has a child with developmental disabilities, which influenced her decision to write the novel. Though, she notes that the story is not based on her own child. Out of My Mind was on the New York Times Best Seller's list for 9 weeks.
From the author:
"I was fiercely adamant that nobody feel sorry for Melody. I wanted her to be accepted as a character and as a person, not as a representative for people with disabilities. Melody is a tribute to all the parents of disabled kids who struggle, to all those children who are misunderstood, to all those caregivers who help every step of the way. It's also written for people who look away, who pretend they don't see, or who don't know what to say when they encounter someone who faces life with obvious differences. Just smile and say hello!" —Sharon M. Draper
Other children's novels with protagonists that are differently abled:
- Small Steps by Louis Sachar
- Rocky Road by Rose Kent
- Carrying Mason by Joyce Magnin
- The Dagger Quick by Brian Eames
- What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge
- Timothy of the Cay by Theodore Taylor
- Tangerine by Edward Bloor
- The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett
- Miss Spitfire: Reaching Hellen Keller by Sarah Elizabeth Miller
The New York Public library has programs for children of all abilities. However, there are some exciting opportunities to participate in programs specifically created for differently abled children and their families.