Chapters 1–6

Born with cerebral palsy, Melody has difficulty communicating with others — but in spite of the obstacles she faces, Melody is determined to prove how smart she really is. Learn these words from the novel by award-winning author Sharon M. Draper.

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Explore the Words

definitions & notes only words
  1. delicate
    easily broken or damaged or destroyed
    Words have always swirled around me like snowflakes—each one delicate and different, each one melting untouched in my hands.
  2. substance
    the real physical matter of which a person or thing consists
    They made my jumbled thoughts and feelings have substance.
  3. verbalize
    express in speech
    My parents have always blanketed me with conversation. They chattered and babbled. They verbalized and vocalized. My father sang to me. My mother whispered her strength into my ear.
  4. absorb
    take up mentally
    Every word my parents spoke to me or about me I absorbed and kept and remembered.
  5. flail
    thrash about
    Her body tends to move on its own agenda, with feet sometimes kicking out unexpectedly and arms occasionally flailing, connecting with whatever is close by—a stack of CDs, a bowl of soup, a vase of roses.
  6. image
    a mental representation
    I can almost hear colors and smell images when music is played.
  7. instant
    a particular point in time
    I suppose it’s a good thing to be unable to forget anything—being able to keep every instant of my life crammed inside my head.
  8. irritated
    aroused to impatience or anger
    I couldn’t roll over, so it was just an irritated me, the shag rug, and the smell of spilled sour soy milk in my face until I got rescued.
  9. assume
    take to be the case or to be true
    He always spoke to me as if he were talking to a grown-up, using real words and assuming I would understand him.
  10. memory
    the power of retaining and recalling past experience
    Here’s the thing: I’m ridiculously smart, and I’m pretty sure I have a photographic memory. It’s like I have a camera in my head, and if I see or hear something, I click it, and it stays.
  11. recall
    summon knowledge from memory
    These kids could remember complicated strands of numbers and recall words and pictures in correct sequence and quote long passages of poetry.
  12. dialogue
    the lines spoken by characters in drama or fiction
    I even remember the dialogue from each show and the commercials in between.
  13. screech
    make a high-pitched noise
    I sometimes can’t breathe real well when this happens, but I have to because I need to screech and scream and jerk.
  14. tornado
    a violently destructive windstorm occurring over land
    These things—I call them my “ tornado explosions”—are pieces of me. All the stuff that does not work gets balled up and hyped up. I can’t stop, even though I want to, even though I know I’m freaking people out. I lose myself.
  15. sedative
    a drug that reduces excitability and calms a person
    He sent a prescription for a sedative, but Mom didn’t give it to me.
  16. analyze
    subject to psychoanalytic treatment
    I’ve seen dozens of doctors in my life, who all try to analyze me and figure me out.
  17. stupendous
    so great in size, force, or extent as to elicit awe
    “Marvelous! Tremendous! Stupendous!” he shouted. He praised me like I had just passed the test to get into college.
  18. symphony
    a long and complex sonata for an orchestra
    I knew the words and melodies of hundreds of songs—a symphony exploding inside my head with no one to hear it but me.
  19. identify
    give the name or characteristics of
    I could identify hundreds of words on sight.
  20. handicap
    being unable to perform due to physical or mental unfitness
    So I put on my handicapped face and took my mind back to last summer when Mom and I went to the zoo.
  21. evaluation
    an appraisal of the worth of something
    My mom and the doctor had no idea why I was smiling as we rolled into the waiting room while he wrote up his evaluation of me.
  22. profoundly
    to a great depth psychologically
    “Mrs. Brooks,” he then said, “it is my opinion that Melody is severely brain-damaged and profoundly retarded.”
  23. protest
    utter words of objection
    Finally, she took a deep breath and protested quietly, “But I know she’s bright. I can see it in her eyes.”
  24. limitation
    the quality of being restricted
    It takes time to accept the limitations of a beloved child.
  25. cerebral
    of or relating to the brain
    She has cerebral palsy, Mrs. Brooks.
  26. diagnosis
    identifying the nature or cause of some phenomenon
    “But a person is so much more than the name of a diagnosis on a chart!”
  27. burden
    a serious or difficult concern
    Was I a burden? I never thought about it like that. Maybe it would be easier for them if I weren’t around.
  28. function
    what something is used for
    You’ve got it easy—you have all your physical functions working properly. You never have to struggle just to be understood.
  29. faculty
    an inherent cognitive or perceptual power of the mind
    All of us who have all our faculties intact are just plain blessed.
  30. communicate
    transmit thoughts or feelings
    Melody is able to figure out things, communicate, and manage in a world where nothing works right for her.
  31. disability
    when one cannot perform due to physical or mental unfitness
    I am in a special program with other children with what they call “ disabilities.”
  32. condition
    an illness, disease, or other medical problem
    There are six self-contained learning communities in our wing of the building—children with various conditions, from preschoolers to kids who ought to be in high school by now.
  33. therapist
    a person skilled in a particular type of care
    When we do what the teachers and therapists call “group” activities, it’s hard for Ashley to participate.
  34. necessary
    absolutely essential
    There are also a few necessary phrases, like, I need to go to the bathroom, please and I’m hungry, but most people—even little kids—need to say more than that in a day.
  35. authority
    freedom from doubt; belief in yourself and your abilities
    “All kids are special,” Mrs. V had replied with authority.
  36. potential
    the inherent capacity for coming into being
    “We want her to reach her highest potential,” Dad added.
  37. bog
    cause to slow down or get stuck
    “Don’t get bogged down in all those touchy-feely words and phrases you read in books on disabled kids. Melody is a child who can learn and will learn if she sticks with me!”
  38. sympathy
    sharing the feelings of others, especially sorrow or anguish
    From the very beginning, Mrs. Valencia gave me no sympathy.
  39. variety
    a collection containing an assortment of things
    Every single space on my talking board got filled with names and pictures of people in my life, questions I might need to ask, and a big variety of nouns and verbs and adjectives, so I could actually compose something that looked like a sentence!
  40. flaw
    an imperfection in an object or machine
    I have magic thumbs, by the way. They work perfectly. The rest of my body is sort of like a coat with the buttons done up in the wrong holes. But my thumbs came out with no flaws, no glitches.
Created on May 22, 2016 (updated April 4, 2019)

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