The Mind's Eye

The Mind's Eye

3.0 3
by Paul Fleischman

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Eighty-eight-year old Elva and Courtney, an attractive sixteen-year-old with a severed spinal chord, lie in adjacent beds in a grim Bismarck, North Dakota convalescent home. Ignored by the world, the only resource they have left is their imagination.

As Elva and Courtney go on a fantasy trip to Italy (accompanied by Elva's long dead husband and guided by a 1910

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Eighty-eight-year old Elva and Courtney, an attractive sixteen-year-old with a severed spinal chord, lie in adjacent beds in a grim Bismarck, North Dakota convalescent home. Ignored by the world, the only resource they have left is their imagination.

As Elva and Courtney go on a fantasy trip to Italy (accompanied by Elva's long dead husband and guided by a 1910 travel book), Elva shows Courtney a new way to envision love. But to accept it, and the gift of the imagination, Courtney must make the trip her own--even if she destroys the art Elva holds most dear.

Written entirely in dialogue, Mind's Eye can be performed as reader's theater, but it is a fully satisfying novel. In this extraordinarily innovative, profound, and yet readable book Paul Fleischman makes us all feel what a powerful--and dangerous--tool the imagination can be.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Written as a script and set in a convalescent home in present-day North Dakota, this provocative story traces the relationship between 16-year-old Courtney (now a paraplegic), and Elva, her 88-year-old roommate. A former English teacher, Elva peppers her conversation with literary allusions as she doggedly encourages Courtney to transcend her physical limitations. "You'll need to spend hours on your mind, not your hair," Elva says. Fleischman cleverly sets up readers to side first with Courtney, who has all she can do to accept her body's condition, then leads them to switch allegiance to Elva, as the spunky octogenarian uses a 1910 Baedeker's Italy to lure Courtney into joining her on an imaginary grand tour of Italy. What follows is a transformative journey not only through the landscape of turn-of-the-century Italy, but also of the mind--fraught with detours as Elva reminisces and Courtney rages against her fate. The author anchors the strongest scenes in sumptuous sensory details of the "trip." But several threads are left dangling: a subtheme, in which Courtney gloms onto the legend of Medusa and fantasizes about wrecking several of Italy's masterpieces with her own evil eye, fizzles out; and, more disappointingly, Courtney's grief at Elva's death takes place offstage. Still, as the final curtain falls, the scene is a hopeful one: the mantle has passed from Elva to Courtney, who persuades her new roommate to join in the fantasy excursion. Whether read solo or presented as a play, this novel, like much of Fleischman's (Weslandia) oeuvre, honors the power and life of mind and spirit. Ages 12-up. (Sept.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
To quote KLIATT's July 1999 review of the hardcover edition: The simple but deeply affecting story tells how self-pitying 16-year-old Courtney, paralyzed from the waist down in a riding accident, meets 88-year-old, bedridden Elva in a bleak North Dakota nursing home. Elva, a former high school English teacher who loves to recite poetry, confides that she has a plan for getting them out—using their imaginations. She insists, over Courtney's initial objections, that they take a fantasy trip to Italy together, building on the details provided in a 1910 edition of Baedeker's Italy that she asks Courtney to read aloud. We learn about Courtney and Elva's backgrounds, as well as about life in the nursing home, in between their fantasy travels. Elva, in her flowery, poetic style, and accompanied in her imagination by her beloved dead husband, brings the locales to life. Gradually Courtney also learns to travel to Italy in her mind to escape her surroundings and her physical limitations, and she comes to appreciate the great gift that Elva has taught her. Realistically rendered and very moving, this is a paean to the power of the imagination. It would easily lend itself to performance as a play, and English teachers will want to consider adding it to their curricula. An ALA Kids' Pick of the Lists and Best Book for YAs. KLIATT Codes: JSA*—Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 1999, Random House/Dell Laurel-Leaf, 108p, 18cm, $5.50. Ages 13 to adult. Reviewer: Paula Rohrlick; May 2001 (Vol. 35 No. 3)
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-Written almost entirely in dialogue, this novel is set in a contemporary North Dakota nursing home. Sixteen-year-old Courtney, paralyzed from an accident, is placed in a room with two elderly patients: May, who is suffering from Alzheimer's disease, and Elva, who is also bedridden but whose mind is very much active and alive. Elva, a former high school English teacher, immediately tries to befriend Courtney but, still in a state of shock and full of self-pity, the teen wants nothing to do with her new roommate. Gradually, she warms up to Elva, who convinces her that reading will help her unlock her imagination and enable her to escape from the confines of her immobility. Reluctant at first, Courtney becomes drawn into Elva's old travel book. As Courtney reads about Italy, Elva narrates the adventure she imagines having there with her deceased husband. Eventually, Courtney is also drawn in and finds herself traveling through Italy. Her transformation is complete when Elva passes away and she assumes her friend's role, convincing her new roommate to join her in this adventure of the mind. Complicated as this story about the power of words may sound, it is written with astonishing simplicity, and Fleischman proves once again his mastery of dialogue. The relationship between Courtney and Elva is real and poignant. Like Bull Run (1993) and Joyful Noise (1988, both HarperCollins), Mind's Eye is perfectly suited for a reader's theater adaptation, or for a full-scale dramatic production. It is one of those truly distinguished books that offers many rich layers for readers to reflect upon.-Edward Sullivan, New York Public Library Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The author of Bull Run (1993) and Dateline: Troy (1996) charts another bitter campaign, this one for a teenager's spirit, and waged entirely within the walls of a nursing home. Paralyzed in a riding accident, Courtney wakes up in a room with a broken TV and two aged roommates: May, an Alzheimer's victim, and Elva, a frail former teacher with failing eyesight. Elva immediately launches an attack on Courtney's shock and despair, frankly informing her that imagination and a well-furnished mind will always serve when the body fails ("You, my girl, must be your own Scheherazade. You must keep yourself alive"). Elva proposes that, with the help of a 1910 copy of Baedeker's Italy, they take an imaginary journey to Italy, bringing the experience to life by describing in detail to each other what they would do and see. Fleischman constructs this as a script free even of stage directions; he succeeds in creating distinct voices, contrasting Elva's cultured, poetic utterances with Courtney's nearly monosyllabic but revealing replies. The play closes with a poignant, slightly eerie epilogue set after Elva's death, in which Courtney describes to a newcomer a romantic past that she has constructed out of her own mind and bits of Elva's life. Disturbing and moving. (Fiction. 12+)

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Product Details

Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
7.80(w) x 6.60(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range:
12 - 18 Years

Meet the Author

Paul Fleischman won a Newbery Medal for Joyful Noise and a Newbery Honor for Graven Images. His most recent novel, Whirligig, was voted a Best Book of the Year by Publisher's Weekly, School Library Journal, and Booklist, and a Notable Book by the New York Times. Paul Fleischman lives in Monterey, California.

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Mind's Eye 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
a very interesting idea for plot but not developed well, too many plot holes and format difficult to read
Guest More than 1 year ago
Mind¿s Eyes is a book about a sixteen-year-old girl named Courtney. She was in a terrible car accident she would never walk again. She was paralyzed from her waist down. When she was only two years old her dad walked out on her and her mother. Then in the book she had said her mom had died the year ago from then. She was stuck with her stepfather after her mom died. She didn¿t like him and the feeling was mutual. That¿s why he put her in the Convalescent home. He didn¿t want to take care of her and right when he put her in the home his little girl friend moved right in with him. The room she was in was shared between three people including Courtney. Their names were Elva and May. May is an older lady with Alzheimer¿s. She says funny random things every once in a while when Courtney and Elva were talking. Elva on the other hand was a very nice lady she had been a teacher in the past years. While Courtney was in the home she goes on an adventure of the mind. The book Mind¿s eyes is a very inspirational book. It is saying that even the worst of bad things could of happen to you, and it is still possible to move on and keep on keeping on. Yet again this book had its down falls also. I had trouble following it at first because of the words. The author had words that were in Italian and for some reason the way he explained things, it confused me. Over all I would probably rate this book, Minds eyes a six in a half or seven. If you are interested you can find this book in stores for $5. 50. The authors name is Paul Fleischman. You should really check this book out.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i give this book a 5 star because it's a strong book that gives a stron g message. The message is saying not to give up inspite of your situation.