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Out of My Heart

Out of My Heart


Readability Age Range



Year Published

Book Review

Young Melody Brooks thinks and feels like other kids: She just can’t move or talk like them. But this year she’s pushing past all that. No matter how terrifying it seems, she’s going to camp!

Plot Summary

The simple fact is, Melody Brooks hates being labeled as a kid with “special needs.” But her cerebral palsy has slapped that sign on her back with neon intensity. Her body just doesn’t move or communicate like other kids her age.

Her 12-year-old brain, though, is an awesome machine.

She can outthink anybody in her grade. Reading skills? Pshaw! She’s off the charts. Trouble is, the “feelings” side of her brain seems to have been kicked up a notch or two as well. And things that might simply unsettle some other kids—say, meeting new people or splashing around in a swimming pool—can feel incredibly scary for a girl named Melody Brooks.

But she has no intention of letting her fears or some dumb ol’ wheelchair define her. And so, she’s been researching the idea of going to, gulp, camp this summer.

You might not know it, but there are indeed camps out there for kids like Melody. They’re called “Therapeutic Recreation Camps,” and they’re designed with all the bells and whistles and safety features to accommodate special needs kids. And even better, all those features might let Melody’s mom feel OK about the idea of letting her go.

After a little prodding and some well-phrased pleas (typed into Melody’s handy little Medi-Talker) Mom says it’s a go. And camp Green Glades still has an open spot, too. Melody is going to camp! She’ll fly down a zipline, swim in a pool and even ride a horse … which all sounds terrifying, if she’s being honest.

However, Melody is dead set on facing any terror or torture they can deal out (though it might not be quite that bad) because she has one tiny hope glowing somewhere in the back of her mind. If everything goes perfectly, she might, just maybe, be able to make a friend.

That would be a first. That would be incredible!

And hey, there are actually boys at those camps, too.

Christian Beliefs


Other Belief Systems

While not religious, there is a belief system that’s gently explored and rejected here: The idea that disabled kids are “less” than others. This book helps us see how simple experiences—that many take for granted—can be a source of great joy and victory for disabled kids. And it makes wonderfully clear how much we all have in common if we only take the time to recognize it.

We also come to realize that kids like Melody have as many hopes and dreams as any other child. As Melody herself says: “Oh, yeah. That’s me. The kid with the dreams inside. But here, somehow, when I looked up at the night sky, I could see my dreams up there, too.”

Authority Roles

Love, patience and support abound in this tale. Melody’s mom, though always protective and fearful over her daughter’s vulnerabilities, is willing to let Melody leave the nest for camp and grow on her own. And Melody’s parents cheer the emotional and physical hurdles she clears.

The camp counselors are also very loving and supportive. And though they have a responsibility to fully protect their charges—a duty they take very seriously—even they come to understand Melody and her friends need to feel independent and have time to enjoy on their own.

Early on in the book, Melody says: “Every single day since I was born, somebody has fed and bathed me and read to me and helped me do every single detail of my life. … I know I’ll always need some kind of help, but when do I get to be me?”

That sense of personal growth, courage and independence is a key part of this story. As is the joy of true friendship.

Profanity & Violence

There’s a mention of “lots of poop” when the campers begin riding horses.

Melody notes that some of the campers require nightly medications.

Several situations arise that are lightly perilous: In an act of rebellion, Melody and her cabinmates walk off by themselves in a wooded area and almost get stuck in a muddy patch. Some campers encounter, and are sprayed by, a skunk. And Melody, while on horseback and in an unexpected rainstorm, gets separated from her counselor and accidentally kicks her horse into action.

Melody and her new camping friends share some stories of being emotionally hurt by others because of ignorance or callousness.

Sexual Content

Nothing sexual. But there are boys at the camp, and Melody makes friends with several. One, though, “makes my heart beat fast and makes my fingers tingle,” she notes. She marvels over her ability to casually talk (via her Medi-Talker) and enjoy someone’s company who actually sees through her disability to notice something nice and appealing about her.

Discussion Topics

Do you know kids with a disability or a “differentness” about them? How do you treat those kids? Do you find it difficult to be friends with them? Have you tried being friends?

Why do you think we sometimes put up barriers between us and “different” people? Take a look at a couple scripture passages: John 9:2-4; Exodus 4:10-12; Psalm 139:13-14; Deuteronomy 27:18-19.

How do you think God feels about those with disabilities? How does He want you to be with them?

What do you think about Melody and her friends in this story? Did they change the way you see people who have limitations that you don’t?

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Additional Comments

Out of My Heart is a sequel to author Sharon M. Draper’s award-winning book, Out of My Mind. Both books are highly praised for helping young readers see the world through the eyes of someone with disabilities. To be frank, though, this book delivers much, much more. It’s a personable, funny, enlightening and, at times, very emotional adventure that parents will definitely want to read and enjoy themselves. Bring tissues.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not necessarily their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book’s review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Review by Bob Hoose