Eleven-year-old Melody has a photographic memory. Her head is like a video camera that is always recording. Always. And there’s no delete button. She’s the smartest kid in her whole school-but NO ONE knows it.
Most people-her teachers and doctors included-don’t think she’s capable of learning, and up until recently her school days consisted of listening to the same preschool-level alphabet lessons again and again and again. If only she could speak up, if only she could tell people what she thinks and knows. But she can’t. She can’t talk. She can’t walk. She can’t write.
Being stuck inside her head is making Melody go out of her mind-that is, until she discovers something that will allow her to speak for the first time ever. At last Melody has a voice . . . but not everyone around her is ready to hear it.
Melody Brooks was born with cerebral palsy. She can’t walk, can’t talk but she is so much smarter than people think. With the help of her parents she has learned to communicate to some extent through a “talk board” which is basically a board with words, numbers, names and even common phrases she can move or point at to help express herself. In fact, she is smarter than almost everyone at school. Until 5th grade she has been in a special education classroom with other challenged students. Unfortunately most of the teachers that her class get don’t see the real kids behind the disabilities they miss out on very brilliant kids. Now she has started inclusions classes with the “normal’ kids. But who decides what is normal these days? Unfortunately most of the students in her new class can’t see past Melody’s disability into the smart and expressive young girl inside. She is trapped in a body that in unable to do much but with a photographic memory that absorbs everything around her. She manages to make one friend, Rose, who struggles with peer pressure of wanting to for in with the popular kids but also wanting to be a part of Melody’s life.
When her class is given a project to do a biography report she immediately decides to do it about Stephen Hawking, someone well known for overcoming adversity to lead quite a normal life. She also decides she needs something even more important. A computer that will help give her a voice. With the help of her student aide Catherine she researches a computer called a “medi-talker” that can be programmed with just about anything and it will speak what you choose. This means Melody could finally have a voice and express everything she is thinking. This device changes Melody’s life in so many ways and even though she still has to have someone feed her, dress her and even take her to the bathroom she has found something that makes her feel like a “normal” kid. This new “voice” even helps some of the students to be nicer to her when they realize that she is definitely more than what they see on the outside. In fact, this gives her the chance to do something totally unexpected. Melody tries out for the Whiz Kid team, a trivia contest for elementary schools from around the area to compete against each other. The winning teams go to a national televised competition in Washington DC. Not all the students are thrilled about this and even her teacher is hesitant about letting Melody join. But, like every other team member she earns her spot on the team and in the first round they win. Melody and her family are thrilled about going to Washington for the national competition, but because of some miscommunication and peer pressure Melody misses going to the competition. This is heartbreaking for Melody and just reminds her that no matter how her classmates may act at school they are still at an age when they are struggling themselves with personal identity.
This is the type of story that just gives you hope no matter what you think could be holding you back. Seeing how Melody overcomes adversity is uplifting. Overall its an amazing story that people young and old can enjoy. Ideal for grades 3 to 7, ages 7-12.