This youth lit novel is told from the point of view of 11-year-old Melody, a fifth grader at Spaulding Elementary. She is concerned about the same things other kids her age are — clothes, music, dealing with parents, a little sister and fellow classmates. But Melody is different. She is wheelchair-bound and non-verbal. Melody has cerebral palsy and has been relegated to a special ed classroom for most of her life because her inability to speak is interpreted as an inability to think or form coherent thought.
Melody is, however, a precocious, whipsmart girl. She is in love with words and has a photographic memory. Her life begins to change when the school starts to promote inclusion in the regular ed fifth grade and Melody gets an assistive communication device. Her intelligence and humor come out, but her relationships with typical peers remain problematic.
Draper creates a sympathetic character and a couple of plot devices to tug at your heart. The climax involves a disappointment for Melody that will make your blood boil. As a parent of special needs children, one of whom uses a talking device, I feel Draper does a fine job portraying the life of the special needs family. I completely identified with the parents’ fears, frustrations and anger, their tiredness and their joy at Melody’s achievements.
The relationships Melody has with a neighbor and with fellow students are particularly relevant to the title of the book. Mrs V is the one who helps Melody get her thoughts out of her mind and into the world first with cards and then with the device. Classmates seem to keep Melody and her humanity out of their own minds. Even the nice ones seem unaware of her feelings. They fail to recognize that despite appearances, she is just like them in many respects. It never enters their minds. Melody has an epiphany herself regarding her fellow special ed students, too, coming to see the loveliness and goodness of each.
This is a great book for kids to learn about and discuss disability, equality, and inclusion.