Wow! So, this book totally surprised me! I picked it up to start reading right before bed on a Saturday night at 11:00, figuring I would read for a few minutes until I fell asleep. At 3:25 in the morning, I finished the book! It has been a long time since I read a book that I couldn't put down even when I was really tired!
Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper is written at about a 4th grade reading level (Lexile 700), and it is about an 11 year old fifth grader who suffers from Cerebal Palsy. Melody is confined to a wheelchair because of her disease, and she is unable to communicate because she physically can't talk or write. Since she is unable to tell anyone what she knows, her teachers and doctors assume that her disability is mental as well as physical. She is relegated to a self-contained classroom of severely disabled children and taught the same alphabet lessons over and over again. When she finally gets to be included in regular classes during her fifth grade year, Melody finds the inspiration to advocate for herself and help to obtain a communication device that allows her to show the world how much she knows. What happens when she can communicate is nothing short of wondrous. This story is gut-wrenching, heart-breaking, sweet, and inspiring. Ms. Draper does a wonderful job sharing the point of view of someone from whom we may be surprised to hear.
"School was finally out and I was standing on a picnic table in our backyard getting ready for a great summer vacation when my mother walked up to me and ruined it." So begins a truly hilarious story of a young Jack Gantos who, although grounded, befriends an elderly neighbor, and gets wrapped up in the struggle between the past and the future of his dying town. Many of the people in town are elderly, and the younger people have moved away to find work. As he helps to write obituaries as the town founders die, Jack learns about the history of the town in which he was born, including important life-lessons, even as he gets swept into one of the biggest mysteries of the town's history.
Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos is a fantastic historical fiction novel which provokes interest in learning about various parts of American and World History. Indeed, I find myself wanting to know more about Eleanor Roosevelt, the founder of Norvelt, as well as various other parts of history mentioned throughout the book. One of this year's Indian Paintbrush Nominees and the winner of the 2012 Newbery Award, I would recommend this book to anyone in 4th grade and higher. The lexile level is 920, which puts it in the 4th-5th grade lexile range. I hope you enjoy Dead End in Norvelt as much as I did!
One of the reasons I became an elementary school librarian is so I can read children's books.