The Upper Elementary Book Club takes monthly deep-dives into curated selections of books in a range of genres. Our on- and off-campus UE students work to complete the books by a deadline, along with complementary work to help them organize their thoughts and plan for discussion. Then they gather online each Friday to discuss the themes, settings, characters, plot lines and literary devices of their chosen books.
For October, UE readers have chosen from three middle-grade novels centered around characters with physical/mobility disabilities, each written in an engaging first-person narrative.
Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly tells the story of 12-year-old Iris, a deaf girl compelled to find and help Blue 55, a whale who is forced to live in isolation because he is unable to communicate with his pod. Iris is surrounded by people who misunderstand and underestimate her because she is deaf, and when she learns about Blue 55, she pours her heart and soul into helping him. A genius with electronics and technology, Iris decides to invent a way to help Blue 55 sing so he can communicate with other whales and find a pod. To accomplish her goal, she has to take a lot of risks and break a lot of rules. She has to venture out into the world alone. Song for a Whale is the adventurous, suspenseful and inspiring story of two misfits finding a connection.
Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper tells the story of Melody, born with cerebral palsy, who cannot walk, talk or write. All of Melody’s life, most people have been telling her she’s incapable and not smart. One doctor even tells her parents she should be sent to a nursing home. But she knows she is smart, maybe smarter than anyone she knows… she’s just trapped inside her head. By the time she’s in fifth grade, Melody is determined to find a way to express her true self. With the help of a communication device, an integrating program at school, and a classroom aide, Melody begins to find her voice. Melody’s path is not easy—she faces cruelty from her classmates and constant doubting from some of her teachers. But she keeps going, relying on her grit, her love of music and her sense of humor to ultimately express her true self.
In Wonder by P.J. Palacio, we meet fifth grader Auggie, born with severe birth defects which left him with hearing loss and severe facial disfigurement. Auggie is never surprised by people’s reactions when they see his face. He’s used to it but he wishes he could just be seen as a normal kid. When his parents move him from homeschooling to a prep school, Auggie has to navigate the reactions of his new classmates and teachers. He is bullied, gawked at and betrayed by a new friend—all he wants is to quit school. Wonder is written in sections, told from different characters’ points of view—Auggie’s older sister, her friend and boyfriend, and two of Auggie’s new friends. Through each of these character’s stories, we learn more about Auggie and how hard life has been for him. And we also learn that there are people on his side, lifting him up. Auggie makes real friendships; with their support and the support of his family, he continues going to school and finds a place in the world.
Similar Titles to Explore
- El Deafo by Cece Bell
- War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
- Roll with It by Jamie Sumner
- Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling
- Firegirl by Tony Abbott
- Mascot by Antony John