Melody Brooks is clever, determined, and full of life. She has so much to say. Words fill her every moment and comprise her earliest memories. These same words that bring her joy also haunt her. Even though she has a photographic memory, she has never spoken a word. Melody was born with cerebral palsy and is confined to a body that is uncontrollable, a wheelchair, and the prejudices of those around her who think she must be "stupid" because of her disability. When Melody is introduced to a new laptop that allows her to type words to be spoken, Melody is a given a chance to tell the world the words she has bottled up for almost eleven years. Will she be given a chance show everyone who she really is?
Without sounding sappy, I must say that Melody's story has stayed with me long after I finished the book. I see her when I see kids in wheelchairs. I remember her when I see kids tease each other in the hallway. I was unsure of the book when I picked it up because it is so different from Draper's other books, but this book has become my favorite. The characters are well-developed and captivating. The story is realistic and depicts the both the positive and negative sides of how handicapped children are treated in the public education system. Because Draper taught for many years, she is a master of capturing the "voices" of students, making her books favorites for students.
This is a story that should be told and shared with kids from intermediate to middle school. Teachers should use this book to talk in literature circles to. The book is told in way that the reader becomes a champion for Melody, wanting to help her beat the odds, which will appeal to kids and teach them much more than a lecture from teachers or parents.
I am buying a second copy for my classroom even though my students are a little older than the protagonist. My students are huge Sharon Draper fans, and I hope this book will cause them to think about how they treat people, specifically those with disabilities, and how they can work hard to overcome any obstacle.
Please note: This book is for ages 10 and up. Sharon Drapers other books are for grades 7 and up at least. While I recommend her books to my students, I wouldn't recommend her other books to intermediate aged children. :)