Out of My Heart by Sharon Draper

Out of My Heart

Sharon M. Draper, Author

Atheneum/A Caitlyn Diouhy Book, Fiction, Nov. 9, 2021

Pages: 352

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.   

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!  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 Forge by Fire. When she’s not busy creating, she’s walking on the beach with her children and grandchildren, paying 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.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a library copy.


Books for Kids Going to Summer Camp

Camp K-9, written by Mary Ann Rodman and illustrated by Nancy Hayashi.   Recently published in May 2011, this charming book will sure to be a favorite among kids. Rodman attended summer camps as a child and later became a camp counselor.   The illustrations are in lovely pastels and set the tone for the book.  Hayashi began writing and illustrating her own books in third grade.

Roxie and her fellow dog campers are headed for Camp K-9.   But, Roxie has a secret she tightly guards in her pooch pouch — her blankie.   From the beginning she and all the campers are taunted by a white Standard Poodle, Lucy.   It’s rotten luck for Roxie when she is paired with the large canine trouble maker.  They share a bunk and are partners in many camp activities that include swimming, boating, and arts and crafts.   One day Lucy is missing.  The camp is in an uproar searching for  Lucy.   But, Roxie  finds Lucy and discovers that she has a secret.  Will she tell?

Plantzilla Goes to Camp, written by Jerdine Nolen and illustrated by David Catrow for kids 4-8 years of age.   I must say this is one of the most imaginative and vividly designed books I’ve run across.  The text is written in letters, post cards and telegrams.  It is  heartwarming with a very subtle message about friendship and self-confidence.  The illustrations are bold, colorful and quirky, which just adds to the total charm of the book.  Kids will love this book!  It is the second in a series, the first book is Plantzilla.

Mortimer Henryson is off  to Camp Wannaleaveee for a month.   He’s following family tradition and attending the  camp his father attended as a boy.  The only problem is that he’s not allowed to take along his pet.  For Mortimer this means he’ll be separated from his beloved  exotic plant, nicknamed Plantzilla by the kids in his class, and his dog.   His teacher offers to plant-sit and dog-sit.  At camp, Mortimer shares a cabin with a bully who is the biggest kid in camp.  He pleads to come home.  Plantzilla, sensing his friend is in trouble , shows up to camp.   That’s when the fun begins and many lessons are to be learned by all.

Cowboy Camp, written by Tammi Sauer and illustrated by Mike Reed, for kids 4-8 years of age.  The illustrations are colorful, bold and humorous.  They beautifully support the text and western theme.   Cowboy Camp is another book kids will  identify with, and want to read again and again.

Avery knew the minute he arrived at Cowboy Camp, that he didn’t fit in.  All the kids were larger than he was, and had names like Hank and Jimmy Dean.  His belly heaved when he ate cowboy chow.  Even worse, he was allergic to horses.  How would he ever live up to Cowboy Dan’s expectations to act, walk and talk like a buckaroo.   Avery sits alone by the campfire one evening contemplating his situation, when he hears a strange noise and sees a shadow.   Avery acts in his own unique way, and  becomes the camp hero and  the bravest cowboy of all.

Going to summer camp is a rite of passage for children.  For many, it is their first time away from home.    I like these three books because they address all the fears and concerns kids face on their own.  They worry about not fitting in,  homesickness and  bullies.  There many good summer camps available to children including scouting, sports, horse, music and art, and  weight-loss camps.   Attending a camp can be a great way for kids to begin to build independence, self-reliance, and self-confidence.