Summary: Chapter 11

Melody starts fifth grade with an electric wheelchair. She is excited to have the freedom to move without someone having to push her. She operates the wheelchair with a small lever but it can still be pushed if necessary. Mrs. Shannon, her new teacher in room H-5, sees potential in Melody. She brings back headphones and books on tape for her, which Melody thoroughly enjoys. Spaulding Street Elementary establishes an inclusion program to allow Melody and the other students in H-5 to interact with the general student populace. 

Melody’s first inclusion class is Mrs. Lovelace’s music class. Melody is exhilarated but also concerned that something might go wrong. After joining the music class, some of the students from room H-5 start to get overwhelmed and upset. All the other children stare at them. Two girls, Molly and Claire, make fun of them and laugh. When Mrs. Lovelace sees Molly and Claire’s behavior, she scolds them and makes them stand for the rest of the class. Mrs. Lovelace begins playing the piano, and Melody sees various shades of green as she slowly starts feeling more at ease. Mrs. Lovelace invites the children of room H-5 to sit closer to her students. Melody is relieved when a student who introduces herself as Rose asks if she would like to sit near her. Melody thinks Rose is a nice girl and begins to feel like a friendship is forming. The students from H-5 continue to join Mrs. Lovelace’s music class every Wednesday thereafter. 

Summary: Chapter 12

The inclusion program expands into other subjects by the end of October. Mrs. Shannon holds a parent-teacher conference with Melody’s parents. She tells them Melody is incredibly smart and anticipates her being a leader in the program. Melody is delighted upon hearing this news and begins kicking and making noises. Mrs. Shannon fills out paperwork to hire an aide, Catherine, to assist Melody in her classes. Melody likes that Catherine talks to her like any other student, and they get along from the very start. Catherine reads off the answers that Melody points to on her board and helps her at lunch as well as with many other essential tasks. One day in Miss Gordon’s language arts class, Claire and Molly wrongly accuse Catherine of cheating for Melody. Melody realizes Claire and Molly are either jealous or think Melody has an easier life. Miss Gordon informs the students that they will be writing a biography on a famous person as well as an autobiography later in the school year. Melody really enjoys her history class with Mr. Dimming. She sees him like a game-show contestant, always quoting facts, dates, and historical events. He is so smart that he oversees the school’s quiz team.

Summary: Chapter 13

One day, Mrs. V hands two-year-old Penny a coloring book and crayons, and Penny begins to scribble. Melody admires her sister’s ability to use a crayon and wishes she could draw a rose for her friend, Rose. Mrs. V tells Melody and Penny that she won an essay contest, and the prize is an all-expenses paid trip for six to the new downtown aquarium. Mrs. V offers to take Melody’s family but she still has one ticket left. Melody immediately thinks of Rose and spells out her name. Mrs. V agrees and Melody is quite excited when Rose agrees to go. 

The car ride to the aquarium is filled with conversation between Rose, Mrs. V, and Melody’s parents. Everyone is having a great time at the aquarium, until they run into Molly and Claire. When the girls find out that Rose is there with Melody, they laugh and shriek. Melody overhears Rose sheepishly tell them that it’s not so bad. Mrs. V makes a comment to Claire about the braces on her teeth. She tells her that she should be thankful that the only thing that needs fixing on her is crooked teeth and that sometimes other people need things to help them such as wheelchairs and walkers. Penny gets tired, so they leave the aquarium. Rose tells everyone that she had a good time but Melody wonders if she really did.

Analysis: Chapters 11–13

In this section, Melody’s new wheelchair and her new aide represent the combination of freedom and support she needs to succeed. Throughout her narrative, Melody demonstrates to the reader that it is nearly impossible for her to develop her mind and participate in society unless she has the necessary tools. The beginning of fifth grade brings a marked change as Melody is afforded more tools to help her blossom. Her new electric wheelchair provides her with the ability to move around at will for the first time in her life, and it brings her pleasure, as shown by her comparing it to a Mercedes. It also allows her to move around the school on her own, as the general education students do. Melody’s new aide, Catherine, provides physical assistance with tests and assignments and allows Melody to demonstrate her intelligence. Catherine’s support and the new wheelchair are tools that enable Melody to engage more fully with the world and allow the world to see her more completely. 

Melody’s experience with the inclusion classroom reveals that students at all levels benefit from more integrated educational experiences. Inclusion classes at school allow Melody to be present with ordinary, able-bodied students of her own age for the first time. Her classroom experience confirms her own belief in her intelligence: she knows everything her classmates know and more. She is communicating more effectively with teachers and beginning to connect with other students, and school is no longer boring thanks to her challenging classes and tests. The inclusion classroom provides social benefits as well as intellectual ones. Thanks to Mrs. Lovelace’s efforts, friendships form between the two groups of students. Freddy sits with Rodney, Maria hugs everyone around her, and Melody becomes especially close to Rose. The special education students are appreciated as individuals. Everyone, whether a special education student or a general education student, benefits from the inclusion classroom. 

The contrast between Melody’s prior school experiences and her new experiences in the inclusion classroom show how the separated track of special education has limited her social opportunities at school and made her feel isolated. She thinks about her friendly classmate Rose all the time, revealing how much it means to her to finally have a real friend at school. Melody feels like a regular student for the first time when she is scolded by a teacher for talking to Rose during class, and Melody and her parents are thrilled that she has a friend to invite to the aquarium. Melody notes during the trip that she has never seen her parents so relaxed, suggesting they are happy to see her engaging with her friend, an important part of childhood that she had not previously enjoyed. 

The pattern seen earlier in the story repeats in these chapters: Melody’s life gets better with new tools and sources of support, but challenges remain. Having Catherine as an aide means that Melody can answer questions in class and take tests, but Melody’s communication board doesn’t allow her to answer as quickly as the other students, and she is accused of cheating because Catherine writes down her spelling words. The trip to the aquarium is wonderful at first because Melody has never been out with a friend before, but Claire and Molly partly ruin the experience by making Rose embarrassed to be seen with Melody. Melody’s joys are often marred by the difficult the circumstances that surround them.