Melody begins the fifth grade. She’s excited to have a new electric wheelchair, which gives her a new freedom. She can move across a room without anyone pushing her.
Until this point, the book has been mostly recollections of Melody’s past. From here forward, the book is in the present tense. Melody’s new wheelchair gives her mobility that she controls. Not only does it give her greater freedom of movement, but it gives her a choice about where she goes.
Mrs. Shannon is Melody’s new fifth-grade teacher. She’s committed to making sure the students learn this year, and has already read the records of all the kids in the class. She knows that Melody likes books on tape, and is excited for her students to take part in new “inclusion classes” outside of room H-5. Melody is so excited about the inclusion classes she can barely contain herself.
Mrs. Shannon is another important authority figure because she believes in Melody’s abilities and tries her best to accommodate both Melody’s disability and her intelligent mind. Inclusion classes offer the possibility of integrating with the larger student body, and potentially feeling like a “normal,” mainstream student.
Melody’s first inclusion class is music with Mrs. Lovelace. Melody already knows the names of the other students, because she’s watched them on the playground for years, but she doubts they know her. When the class starts Willy yells and Jill cries, and Melody is nervous they’ll be kicked out. Some of the other students start to laugh, and two girls, Molly and Claire, mock Willy behind the teacher’s back.
Even though Melody has attended the same school as the fifth-graders in her inclusion class, and even though she knows who they are, Melody understands that she is not a fully integrated member of her school’s community. In her music class, she’s also worried that her H-5 classmates with less self control will remind the rest of the students of the way they are different from Melody, when all she wants is to be the same.
Mrs. Lovelace punishes Molly and Claire by making them stand for the rest of the class for being rude to Melody and the other students with disabilities. Mrs. Lovelace then plays a few songs. Gloria, Willy, and Maria all love it, and Melody’s synesthesia has her seeing green, which means the music is very good. Mrs. Lovelace has students from the fifth-grade partner with students from Melody’s classroom. Even though Claire and Molly are audibly rude, Maria kisses Claire on the cheek. A girl named Rose, who had been upset when the rest of the class laughed at Willy and Jill, volunteers to be Melody’s partner, which makes Melody happy.
Mrs. Lovelace includes Melody and her classmates in the fifth-grade music lesson, essentially forcing everyone to get along. Melody is technically in the class, but it remains a question how much a part of it she really is. Melody’s synesthesia is an example of a hidden talent, not visible from the outside. Like her love of learning, her love of music and her ability to experience it with multiple senses is unrelated to her cerebral palsy, and is partially disguised by it.
Melody returns to Mrs. Lovelace’s class every Wednesday. Rose continues to be her partner, which excites Melody so much that she can barely sleep the night before and always wears her best outfits. Melody worries that Rose will decide she doesn’t like Melody after all, but Rose is kind to her and talks to Melody with the assumption that she can understand. They speak using Melody’s communication board, and they even joke about how neither of them likes jazz. Rose tells Melody secrets and describes going to the mall with friends. Melody appreciates that Rose confides in her, but wishes she could be the kind of friend Rose went to the mall with.
Rose is Melody’s first real friend, and the first person, who isn’t a teacher, family member, or Mrs. V, to show an interest in her. At first, Melody feels that Rose treats her as a friend, and she likes that Rose acknowledges all the things they have in common—they’re both smart fifth grade girls, they like school, they don’t like jazz. However, Melody can tell that Rose doesn’t treat her as a complete friend. They interact at school, but Rose doesn’t seem interested in extending the friendship beyond friendly exchanges in class. Even though Melody appreciates that Rose accepts her more than many of her other classmates, she wishes Rose’s acceptance meant Rose would treat her fully as a friend.