Chapter 4 Summary
Leslie continues to race with the boys at recess every day, and she wins every time. Jesse has resigned himself to the fact that he will never be the best runner in the fifth grade. The other boys, unhappy at the direction their traditional activity has taken, begin to drift off to other pursuits. By Friday of the first week of school, it is clear that the races have come to an end.
Jesse's only consolation is the fact that Friday is music day, and Miss Edmunds is back. Miss Edmunds actually singles him out in the morning. She asks him if he has kept up his drawing over the summer and expresses a desire to see his work. During music class, Miss Edmunds sings a song called “Free to Be You and Me,” and by the time she is on the final chorus the whole fifth grade has joined in. Jesse, “caught in the pure delight of it,” looks over and smiles at Leslie. She smiles back and knows that he is no longer angry about what happened to the races.
On the bus, Leslie sits with Jesse and May Belle and tells them about Arlington and the “huge suburban school” she used to attend, with all its amenities. She acknowledges that she had a lot of friends there, and that her adjustment at Lark Creek Elementary has been hard. Leslie’s parents, who are both writers, have moved to the country because they “are reassessing their value structure,” having decided that they are “too hooked on money and success.” Although the decision to move was made by all of them, relocating has been hardest on Leslie, but she accepts what is happening without bitterness or complaint.
At school, the students in the fifth grade are assigned to write an essay about their favorite hobbies, and Mrs. Myers reads Leslie’s composition about scuba diving aloud to the class. She is insensitive to the fact that by singling her out with such glowing admiration, she is making it even more difficult for Leslie to fit in. After reading Leslie’s essay, Mrs. Myers assigns the class to watch something on television for homework. When Leslie reveals that she cannot do the assignment because her family does not own a television, she is again subjected to the disbelief and contempt of her classmates. At recess, Leslie is harassed further by the girls in her class. Boarding the bus that afternoon, she feels completely demoralized and goes straight to the corner of the long bench in the rear of the bus, unaware that it is the territory of the seventh graders. Jesse knows what will happen if Leslie is there when the older students arrive, so he rushes back and grabs her, dragging her past Janice Avery, the most notorious of the seventh-grade bullies. As he passes her, he utters an insulting comment that...
(The entire section is 960 words.)