Mrs. Olinski's sixth-grade class is the first since her accident; it is the first class she has had in ten years. Although she approaches it with seeming confidence, she is unsure of herself and a little apprehensive. When she returns to her classroom at lunch on the first day of school to find the word "CRIPPLE" on the board, she knows that a lot has changed since her last teaching experience.
At Sillington House on the Saturday after they had dubbed themselves The Souls, Julian announces that the group must have a project. Using the metaphor of a small ivory monkey that can balance on any of its four limbs, he communicates to his friends that he thinks they ought to help Mrs. Olinski "stand on her own two feet," so to speak. Together, the children resolve to "give her some support." The children realize that achieving success will be quite a "balancing act."
Julian Narrates When Ginger Played Annie's Sandy
Epiphany High School is putting on a rendition of the musical Annie during the holiday season, and Ethan suggests to Nadia that she should have Ginger audition for the role of Sandy. Led by Julian, The Souls join together to help Ginger learn her lines. Nadia thinks that Ginger is a genius and that she is sure to get the part. As expected, Ginger performs flawlessly and indeed does get the part, while Arnold, a Labrador retriever belonging to Hamilton Knapp's friend Michael Froelich, is chosen as her understudy.
The main performance of the play will be held on the Saturday evening before the winter recess. On that Friday, there will be a matinee performance, and everyone at Epiphany Middle School will be in attendance.
On the day of the performance, Julian overhears Ham Knapp talking with his friends on the bus. They are planning to put tranquilizers and laxatives in the doggie treats that will be given to Ginger during the play. She will thus be unable to execute her part, and Michael Froelich's Arnold will be used instead.
When the bus arrives at the high school, Julian enlists the aid of Ethan and Noah in a plan to foil Ham Knapp's plot. Julian makes his way backstage and is about to remove the tainted treats when he notices that it is Arnold who is preparing to perform instead of Ginger. Julian subsequently learns from Nadia that Arnold is being given the opportunity to play Sandy during the afternoon show; Ginger will return as usual in the evening performances. The switch had been announced just that morning, so Ham and his cohorts would not have known about it on the bus. Julian is faced with a difficult decision: he can remove the doctored treats and save Arnold from embarrassment, or he can leave them there and exact revenge on Ham Knapp and his friends.
Arnold performs admirably during the performance, and the audience applauds him enthusiastically. Unfortunately, Hamilton Knapp begins chanting, "Arf! Arf! Arf!" when the acclaim dies down, enticing the other students to join in and creating quite a disturbance. Mrs. Reynolds, the director of the musical, reprimands the children, ordering them to leave the auditorium quietly. Ham Knapp feigns innocence and gets away with his rude behavior.
As he exits the auditorium, Julian is summoned by Mrs. Olinski, who tells him that she has been invited to Sillington House to visit with her old friend Margaret Draper Diamondstein and her new husband, who are in town to see Ginger perform in the play. Mrs. Olinski invites Julian to ride home with her. Ethan, who is standing behind him, asks if he can come too, as Margaret is his grandmother....
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Ethan also suggests that they ask Nadia to accompany them, as Margaret's husband, Izzy, is her grandfather. Noah, not wanting to be left out, announces that he should also be included because he had been the best man at the Diamondstein's wedding. Laughing, Mrs. Olinski notifies the bus driver that the children will be going with her.
Julian admits that, for a moment, he had considered letting Arnold consume the drugged treats during the performance. Instead, he had taken them and substituted Ginger's "wholesome ones." Later, when Ham had started the ruckus in the auditorium, Julian had regretted his decision to save Arnold. Julian had been unable to stop himself from accosting the culprit. Ham had been sitting with his mother in their van, waiting to get out of the parking lot. Julian had reached into his open window, dropping the poisoned treats in his lap. Although he violated one of Gopal's cardinal rules in revealing his cleverness, Julian is glad about what he has done and hopes that Gopal will forgive him.