Melody Brooks is the novel’s protagonist and narrator. Born with cerebral palsy, Melody cannot speak or control her limbs. Although Melody is not able to communicate verbally with those around her, she has a photographic memory and a witty personality. In spite of her genius, Melody finds herself isolated in the special-needs classroom until the age of eleven, at which point she receives a Medi-Talker, a device that enables her to speak by using her thumb to trigger pre-programmed phrases. Melody longs to be seen and treated as a normal kid. She describes herself as having brown curly hair, brown eyes, stiff limbs, and a pink wheelchair.
Mrs. Violet Valencia is Melody’s neighbor and after-school caregiver. Mrs. V used to work as a nurse, and would wear bright hand-sewn outfits to boost sick children’s spirits. Mrs. V recognizes Melody’s intelligence and challenges Melody to do more than others believe she is capable of. Mrs. V plays an instrumental role in helping Melody acquire her Medi-Talker and expand her knowledge. When Melody is frustrated, she does not allow Melody to use her disability as an excuse to give up.
Mrs. Shannon is Melody’s fifth-grade teacher. Reminding Melody of a television grandmother, Mrs. Shannon is pudgy, wears lavender body lotion, and speaks with a strong Southern drawl. She allows Melody to listen to audiobooks and initiates inclusion classes for students in room H-5. She also secures funding for an aide to help Melody at school.
Catherine is Melody’s aide at Spaulding Street Elementary. When she isn’t attending university, Catherine comes to the school to assist Melody with tasks throughout the school day. Catherine speaks to Melody as though she is intelligent and capable of understanding. Melody playfully teases Catherine for her dress sense, since Catherine wears color combinations that Melody finds ugly, such as purple and green.
Penny is Melody’s little sister. Penny is fond of dressing up in elaborate outfits and makes numerous attempts to escape out of the house. Penny’s ease of movement and expression is a source of jealousy and annoyance for Melody, though Penny is ultimately a source of comfort. Toward the end of the novel, Penny manages to escape and is run over by Melody’s mother’s SUV.
Melody's Mother (Diane Brooks)
Diane Brooks is Melody’s mother. She works as a nurse. Though she is supportive and loving, she often misunderstands what Melody is trying to communicate. The stress of raising Melody at times leads Melody’s mother to act out in frustration. When Melody’s mother is pregnant with Penny, she expresses her concern that she will give birth to another developmentally disabled child.
Melody's Father (Chuck Brooks)
Melody’s father Chuck is portrayed as encouraging and supportive. He speaks directly and personally to Melody from a very young age, as though she is an adult. When she is a baby, he says that if they could switch places and he could live her difficult life for her, he would. He loves Muenster cheese, even though digestion issues mean it makes him fart when he walks up steps—a habit which Melody finds amusing.
Mr. Dimming is Melody’s history teacher and the teacher in charge of Spaulding Street Elementary’s quiz team. He is teased by students for wearing the same dull clothing every day. Mr. Dimming doubts Melody’s abilities and attempts to discourage her from trying out for the Whiz Kids team. This antagonism fuels Melody to prove him wrong.
Rose is a main-school student at Spaulding Street Elementary. Rose is characterized as studious and forward-thinking. After she sits next to Melody during Mrs. Lovelace’s music class, Melody bonds with Rose and projects her desire for genuine friendship onto Rose. Later, they are both on the Whiz Kids team. Rose is for the most part friendly, though it becomes apparent that Rose’s connection to Melody is somewhat superficial.
Connor is a Spaulding Street Elementary student who joins the Whiz Kids team. He is characterized as a class clown who likes to draw attention to himself, though he is nonetheless intelligent, and kind to Melody.
Claire is a Spaulding Street Elementary student. She is consistently unkind to Melody and jealous of her intelligence. Claire is on the Whiz Kids team. She claims to be Melody’s friend during their interview with Channel Six News.
Molly is a Spaulding Street Elementary student and Claire’s best friend. Like Claire, she mocks and bullies Melody. She eventually joins the Whiz Kids team for the finals in Washington.
Dr. Hugely is the doctor Melody’s mother consults to evaluate Melody’s suitability to begin kindergarten. Dr. Hugely’s bias—his belief that Melody is mentally impaired—leads him to pay little attention to the validity of his tests; he suggests that Melody’s mother may want to put her in a care facility. Melody describes him as being very large, with a bulging belly.
Mrs. Hyatt is Melody’s first homeroom teacher at Spaulding Street Elementary. Mrs. Hyatt introduces the class to Sydney, the Styrofoam snowman the class decorates at Christmas.
Ashley is the youngest of Melody’s classmates in room H-5. Though she is nine, Ashley is as small as a three-year-old and uses the smallest wheelchair Melody has ever seen. Ashley has doll-like good looks and perfectly matching pink outfits. Her muscles are so stiff that she can rarely participate in class activities. Her communication board only has “yes” and “no.”
Carl is the largest student in room H-5. He has an extra-wide wheelchair, which he needs multiple aides to help him out of. He is able to hold a pencil and write his own name. He often soils himself in class and needs to have his diaper changed.
Another of Melody’s classmates in room H-5, Maria has Down syndrome and loves to celebrate holidays. Characterized as talkative and affectionate, Maria often hugs Melody and calls her Melly-Belly.
Presumed autistic, Gloria sits in the corner of room H-5 and clutches her knees while rocking. Gloria is able to walk and talk, though she rarely joins in the class’s activities.
Willy is another eleven-year-old in Melody’s special needs class. He yodels, shrieks, and yells while flailing his arms and legs uncontrollably. He is an expert in baseball trivia.
At twelve, Freddy is the oldest of Melody’s H-5 classmates. He has an electric wheelchair with NASCAR decals that he loves to zip around in.
Another H-5 student, Jill uses a walker because her left foot drags. She is thin, quiet, and has blank eyes. Melody believes that Jill was in a car accident.
As Melody’s first-grade teacher, Mr. Gross presents a guessing game to the class. He is astonished when Willy knows the answer to every obscure baseball question.
Seen while Melody is watching television, Stephen Hawking is a world-famous theoretical physicist. Stephen Hawking’s ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) means he is paralyzed; however, he is able to speak using a device similar to Melody's Medi-Talker.
During her time as the second-grade teacher in room H-5, Mrs. Tracy figures out that Melody likes to listen to audiobooks.
Mrs. Billups is the third-grade teacher in room H-5. She neglects to read the previous teacher’s records of the students, choosing to start the entire class off with rudimentary lessons that irritate Melody.
Ollie is the goldfish Melody’s father wins at a fair. Melody reflects that the fish’s confinement within its bowl is a worse life than hers. Ollie eventually jumps out of the bowl and dies.
Butterscotch is Melody’s pet golden retriever. He is characterized as an intelligent and loving companion.
Mrs. Lovelace, the music teacher, is the first main-school teacher to open her classroom to include special-needs students. Melody appreciates it when Mrs. Lovelace disciplines Claire and Molly after they mock students from H-5.
One of the main-school students, Rodney welcomes Freddy to the music classroom by giving him a high-five. Rodney later becomes an alternate for the quiz team.
The language arts teacher, Miss Gordon assigns the autobiography project that results in Melody writing her story down.
Paul is the stage manager at the television studio from which the Whiz Kids regional competition is broadcast. He is proud to modify the quiz buttons to accommodate Melody, and confides that he has a son with disabilities.
Craig Kingsley is the tuxedo-wearing host of the Whiz Kids quiz broadcast. Mr. Kingsley puts special focus on Melody while introducing the competition.
Elizabeth Ochoa is the Channel Six News reporter who interviews the Spaulding Street Elementary school team after their win. She is surprised when Melody is able to speak for herself through her Medi-Talker.
Gus drives the wheelchair lift–equipped bus that brings Melody and other special needs students to and from school. He is friendly to Melody, and will wait patiently when parents do not have their children ready at the door.
Out of My Mind Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Out of My Mind is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Catherine is Melody’s aide at Spaulding Street Elementary. When she isn’t attending university, Catherine comes to the school to assist Melody with tasks throughout the school day. Catherine speaks to Melody as though she is intelligent and...
Melody and her family went to the airport to head to D.C for the whiz kids competition when they found out that their flight had been cancelled. Later on, they find out that the rest of the team didn't inform them that they had left an hour...