Summary: Chapter 22
The quiz team spends the next two weeks studying and practicing after school. Melody is thrilled to be a part of the team, but she doesn’t feel a sense of belonging. During the practice sessions, students ask and answer questions so quickly that Melody doesn’t have the time to type in her answers. Finally, a question comes up that baffles the class, so Melody has enough time to type in her answer. She answers correctly, which has Claire questioning how Melody can know so much. Rose comes to Melody’s defense and simply says that Melody is smart. Claire again makes a remark about how odd Melody will look on television. Melody already had a response typed up and her Medi-Talker tells Claire that lots of people look funny on television and that Claire might be one of them. Melody is elated by her own response. One day, Rose’s mother orders pizza for the team during practice. When Elena asks Melody if she’d like some, Melody responds that she isn’t hungry. She doesn’t want to share with her teammates that she is unable to eat it by herself and needs someone to feed her.
Summary: Chapter 23
The day of the regional Whiz Kids competition is here. Mrs. V has a talk with Melody as they’re waiting for the school bus. She tells Melody of the day’s timeline and that the studio has prepared for her. She also tells Melody that some reporters may be there to ask Melody questions. Melody doesn’t comprehend why they would want to talk to her, and Mrs. V tells Melody that she is the Stephen Hawking of Spaulding Street Elementary. Melody’s mother picks Melody up after school, gets her something to eat, and brings her to the downtown TV studio. They meet a stage manager, Paul, who immediately puts Melody at ease. He shows her a special answer board that he has created for her. It will allow Melody to use her whole wrist to hit the answer button, not just her thumb as she does on her Medi-Talker. Mr. Dimming and the rest of the team start to arrive as well as the competing elementary school teams. Melody’s family and Mrs. V are in the audience. Catherine stands behind the camera just in case she is needed. Melody is ready and confident.
Summary: Chapter 24
The moderator, Mr. Kingsley, welcomes the audience to the Whiz Kids Southwest Ohio Regional Competition. He explains the rules and says that the two highest scoring teams from the early rounds will compete against each other in a final round for the title of local champion and will then move on to the national competition in Washington, D.C. The national champion will make an appearance on Good Morning America.
Melody’s team from Spaulding Street Elementary is up first against Woodland Elementary. After much back and forth between the two teams, Spaulding Street comes out victorious. Their team is taken to a waiting room to watch the rest of the preliminary rounds play out. Melody’s family, Mrs. V, and Catherine are all there. The competition continues and after the fourth round, Perry Valley school wins, ending with one point more than Spaulding Street. Mr. Kingsley announces Spaulding Street and Perry Valley as the two top-scoring schools that will compete against each other in the final round. He states that in addition to competing in Washington, D.C., the winners and their chaperones will have all their expenses paid for the trip, plus be given a tour of the city. The overall winning team will receive a giant gold trophy and their school will receive two thousand dollars.
Summary: Chapter 25
The championship round begins between Spaulding Street and Perry Valley. Perry Valley stays one or two points ahead throughout the round until the final two questions. In the end, Spaulding Street Elementary beats Perry Valley by one point. Melody squeals and her arms and legs flail as Claire demands someone shut her up. Mr. Kingsley reminds people to watch the upcoming finals and ends the telecast. Mr. Dimming, the alternates, and the family members of the contestants rush onto the stage and everyone is buzzing with excitement. Cameras start flashing in Melody’s face. One reporter asks the Spaulding Street team for an interview. The reporter announces the group as the competition winners and asks each team member to introduce themselves. Claire, Rose, and Connor speak up. Connor is about to introduce Melody but before he can, the Medi-Talker loudly announces Melody’s name and age. The reporter starts asking more questions of Melody when Claire suddenly interrupts her to mention what good friends she and Melody are. Rose raises her hand but is told they are out of time. In closing, the reporter congratulates the team and makes special mention of the relationship between Melody and Claire, saying they became best friends in spite of their differences. Melody is astonished.
Summary: Chapter 26
Mr. Dimming suggests the team go out to a restaurant for a celebratory meal. As the group agrees, Melody looks at her mother, unsure for a moment, but then agrees. At the restaurant, everyone orders, and they have a fun conversation while waiting for their meals. When the waitress brings out the food, everyone starts eating except Melody. No one on the team has ever seen her eat before and her disability requires someone to feed her. She and her mother exchange looks and Melody gives her a nod that she wants to eat. As Melody’s mother begins feeding her one spoonful at a time, Molly pokes Claire and they glance at each other. Everyone stops talking at the table. Melody pushes her food away, deciding to take the rest home, even though she is still hungry. She notices that Claire has barely eaten and has hardly said anything all night. Some of the group orders dessert and conversation picks back up with everyone talking about the upcoming Washington trip. Claire mentions that she doesn’t feel good and stands up, stumbles a bit, covers her mouth, and then throws up on Mr. Dimming’s shoes. Claire goes to the bathroom with her mother and Mr. Dimming rushes off to clean his shoes. Melody wonders if Claire was as uncomfortable and embarrassed as Melody felt while being fed. Melody finds it curious that no one looks bothered by Claire getting sick in the middle of the restaurant. Claire returns looking pale and everyone pays their tab and leaves.
Analysis: Chapters 22–26
Although Melody has earned a place on the quiz team and no one actively attempts to exclude her, their failure to accommodate her disabilities leaves her on the outside of the group. Much of the team’s preparation for the competition takes place in rapid conversations, making it impossible for Melody to contribute, since she cannot comment with her Medi-Talker as quickly as the other students can speak. This leaves her feeling left out and prevents her teammates from benefiting from her knowledge. When the team is interviewed after the competition, the reporter is happy to believe Claire’s assertion that she and Melody are best friends. The team chooses a restaurant for their celebratory dinner without considering Melody’s needs, and when they encounter the stairs at the entrance, they do not seem to notice the barrier it creates for Melody. Despite Melody’s mother’s efforts to help Melody enjoy the dinner, her teammates respond with awkward silence. Even as the team celebrates a victory together, they do not fully include Melody.
This section of the book also provides positive examples of people helping Melody feel comfortable by accepting her needs. At the TV studio, the stage manager has anticipated Melody’s needs as a contestant and prepared an environment that supports her success. He avoids crossing cables as they move through the studio, understanding that they may cause a problem for her wheelchair. He makes a point of telling Melody that her place during the competition is right next to her teammates, making sure she is properly included. He ensures she has an equal chance to participate in the actual quiz by building her an answer board at the proper height for her wheelchair. These thoughtful accommodations show his determination to ensure that Melody can fully participate in the contest. The waitress at the restaurant also adjusts easily to Melody’s physical appearance without making her feel out of place. Although she is initially surprised to hear Melody’s Medi-Talker relay her order, she responds normally and smiles. These examples illustrate that when people accept Melody and adapt to her needs, rather than excluding her because of her disabilities, she can live a fuller, richer life.