Out of My Heart
Sharon M. Draper, Author
Atheneum/A Caitlyn Diouhy Book, Fiction, Nov. 9, 2021
Suitable for ages: 10 and up
Themes: Cerebral palsy, Summer camp, Differently abled kids, Self-confidence, Emotions, Social themes, Friendships
Book Jacket Synopsis:
Melody, the huge-hearted heroine of Out of My Mind, is a year older, and a year braver. And now with her Medi-talker, she feels nothing’s out of her reach, not even summer camp. There have to be camps for differently-abled kids like her, and she’s going to sleuth one out. A place where she can trek through a forest, fly on a zip line, and even ride on a horse! A place where she can make her own decisions, do things herself, and maybe maybe maybe, finally make a true friend.
By the light of flickering campfires and the power of thunderstorms, through the terror of unexpected creatures in cabins and the first sparkle of a crush, Melody’s about to discover how brave and strong she really is.
What I love about Out of My Heart:
Sharon Draper has hit a sweet spot in her sequel, Out of My Heart. Melody Brooks has found her voice, expresses her feelings, shows her humorous side and has outwitted some serious bullies in the past year. Now she wants some independence to see what she can do. Topping her list — she wants to be with others who understand her, feel like she’s part of a group and develop some friendships.
When Melody decides she wants to go to a summer camp for girls and boys who are differently abled, she is catapulted into some exciting new adventures that challenge her to find out more of who she is and what she can do. She has set on the sidelines of life watching others, now it’s time for Melody to fly. She courageously learns to fly on a zip line, swim, ride in a boat, paint a mural, participate in races, break some camp rules (her best day ever), and attends the best campfires every night. She sees some really cool wheelchairs and devices. And has a first crush.
Another bonus to camp, there are no helicopter parents hovering over her every move. Just one young counselor assigned to each camper to help ease her needs. Melody likes her counselor, Trinity, and the three other memorable girls: Karyn (spina bifida), Athena (Down syndrome), and Jocelyn (maybe autism spectrum). Towards the end of the week the four girls ask for their own space — without counselors — where they can chat, giggle and really become friends. Melody gives them each a friendship bracelet.
Melody can’t walk, talk, and use her hands and fingers like most people. Yet she is smart, strong-willed, and determined. I was surprised to read a few disappointed reviewers, who wanted to connect with her hurt and pain, as they did in Out of My Mind. As someone who suffered a brain injury years ago and had to learn to walk, talk and use my hands again, I wanted to see Melody move forward and find out what was possible for her without anyone adding limitations. That’s why I am so thrilled with Melody’s real spunk to learn about herself and take some risks that will lead her to a healthier and happier future.
And there are some important things I believe Melody would want you to remember from Out of My Mind when meeting or working with a child who is differently abled. Don’t talk about them as if they are invisible. Don’t assume that they are brain-damaged and aren’t intelligent. Always assume they can hear or understand you even if they can’t communicate. Look directly into their eyes and talk to them as if they understand you. Treat them with respect and dignity. Don’ talk in a loud voice, talk normally. Don’t look away if you feel awkward. Smile and say hello. Be friendly.
There is no feeling sorry for Melody Brooks in Out of My Heart. Hooray for Melody! Let’s hope Sharon Draper has it in her heart to carry Melody’s journey forward in a future sequel. Melody is not finished, she’s just begun! Melody’s story belongs in every middle school classroom as a new generation of kids will want to read and discuss her story.
Sharon M. Draper has written more than thirty books, including the New York Times bestsellers Out of My Mind, Blended, and Stella by Starlight and Coretta Scott King Award winners Copper Sun and Forged by Fire. When she’s not busy creating, she’s walking on the beach with her children and grandchildren, playing the piano, and ballroom dancing. She lives in Florida. Visit this award-winning author, educator, speaker, poet and National Teacher of the Year at her online wbsite.
*Reviewed from a library copy.