Elem./MG – Out of My Heart

Draper, Sharon M. Out of My Heart. Atheneum Book for Young Readers, 2021. 978-1-665-90216-8. 352 p. $18.99. Grades 5 and up. 

Melody Brooks has cerebral palsy, but that has never stopped her in the past, and it won’t stop her now from achieving her plan of attending camp this summer. After researching camps for kids like her, she convinces her parents to complete the application for Camp Green Glades. At first, Melody’s dream is dashed when she learns the camp does not have any openings this summer, but then, after a cancellation, Melody’s dream comes true. At Camp Green Glades, Melody experiences swimming, ziplining, hiking, horseback riding, and even dancing; all things she never dreamed she could do. Throughout all of her adventures, she finds true friendship and a personal determination and will to do anything.

THOUGHTS: This is a MUST read for all ages. Sharon Draper once again brings to life the voice of those often left silent. This highly anticipated follow up to Out of My Mind (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2010) shows readers the potential in not only people with specific needs, but all of us. Melody goes on adventures that I’ve never tried, but definitely want to after reading how Melody felt. Out of My Heart gives hope to all and is another prize for middle-grade (and all) readers. Draper’s ability to bring Melody’s voice to life is amazing; Melody is eloquent and strong and still a soon-to-be-teenager going through all of those “tween” things. Another superb novel from Sharon Draper. 

Realistic Fiction          Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

Sidenote – I have a nephew with CP. Both of Melody’s stories give me so much hope for him and what he can become. My heart is filled with hope because of Melody. 

Sidenote 2 – I do not recommend the audio of this book. I love audiobooks, but this reader used a very high-pitched voice for Melody that I found to be too childish. It wasn’t Melody’s voice. I switched to just reading the print about a quarter of the way through the book. 

MG – Real

Cuject, Carol, and Peyton Goddard. Real. Shadow Mountain, 2021. 978-1-629-72789-9. 304 p. $16.99. Grades 4-8.

Charity can clap, jump, kick, shrug, and make movements just like everyone else – except she can’t control WHEN her body makes these movements. This also means she can’t talk – while she can solve complicated math problems and memorize passages from literature, Charity cannot communicate. Her diagnosis is autism, which means her brain is wired differently than other neurotypical students her age. Charity goes to a special school for students with different challenges and abilities. However, when her mother realizes just how badly the adults are treating Charity in that school, she fights to get her into a regular public school. The principal, however, is not supportive; he thinks Charity’s uncontrollable movements will disrupt the other students in the school. But the special education teacher and Charity’s mom believe that she can do it. The problem is, Charity isn’t sure she can. She hopes that she can prove to everyone in the school that she is a capable, intelligent young lady – even if she can’t always make her body cooperate.

THOUGHTS: Real gives a picture into the mind of a student who is not neurotypical. Peyton Goddard, one of the authors, writes this book based on personal experiences she had as a teenager in the hopes of showing readers that inclusion and protection of this vulnerable population is a necessity in schools and in society. This book is a must-have for middle grade libraries and would be an excellent book club pick.

Realistic Fiction          Danielle Corrao, Manheim Central SD

MG – Show Me a Sign

LeZotte, Ann Clare. Show Me a Sign. Scholastic Press, 2020. 269 p.  978-1-338-25581-2. $ 18.99. Grades 4-7.

Part Historical Fiction and part Thriller, this story is set in 1805 Martha’s Vineyard and follows 11 year old Mary. Mary is one of the many deaf inhabitants of Martha’s Vineyard who descended from a small town in England. This genetic abnormality passes over some, yet inflicts others. However, life on the island is normal for the deaf and hearing alike. Most inhabitants speak their own form of island sign language as well as English. Life is normal until a young scientist from Boston comes to the island to study this abnormality. In trying to uncover the cause of deafness, Andrew captures Mary as his specimen and absconds with her to mainland Boston. Tortured by her captor, and realizing that she is different for the first time, Mary must find a way to escape and return to her family. Follow Mary as she escapes with the help of some Vineyard friends and finds her way home to her family and friends. The afterword includes a short history of deafness on Martha’s Vineyard, Sign Language, and the Wampanoag Tribe.

THOUGHTS: Such an interesting and unforgettable story that is rooted in history. LeZotte is deaf herself and does a fantastic job of bringing you into the world of Mary.

Historical Fiction          Krista Fitzpatrick, Waldron Mercy Academy

Tags: Deafness, Kidnapping, Sign Language

MG – Normal: One Kid’s Extraordinary Journey

Newman, Magdalena, and Nathaniel Newman. Normal: One Kid’s Extraordinary Journey. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020. 978-1-328-63183-1. 327 p. $16.99. Grades 7-8.

Nathaniel has always felt normal despite living with Treacher Collins syndrome (TC), a condition diagnosed at birth which causes bones in his face to grow and others not to grow, causing breathing and hearing difficulties. Nathaniel and Magda, Nathaniel’s mother, recount the story of his life from infancy to his teenage years. Throughout his life, Nathaniel had over sixty procedures to correct craniofacial differences caused by TC. Despite the challenges, Magda and her family were determined to give Nathaniel a normal childhood, full of video games, pets, bike riding, and sibling rivalries. When he turned 11, Nathaniel chose to have his largest procedure yet which would eventually allow him to reach a lifetime goal, to swim submerged in water for the first time. Each chapter begins with a black and white cartoon which entices readers to finish the chapter. The story is told from two perspectives, as indicated by different font styles for each narrator, and includes flashbacks to Magda’s life growing up in Poland. Both Nathaniel and Magda teach all children to separate “who someone is from what he looks like.”

THOUGHTS: Readers of R.J Palacio’s Wonder will easily recognize this story and will enjoy learning how the book and movie positively affected the lives of “Wonder Kids” around the world. Middle Grade readers interested in digging deeper into Teachers Collins syndrome or those who enjoy reading books about diverse kids, will enjoy Nathaniel’s and Magda’s story.

617.5 Medicine and Health            Jaynie Korzi, South Middleton SD
Biography