Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 652
Because of The Souls' unprecedented achievement in making it to the regional championships as a sixth-grade team, Mrs. Olinski and the children are featured on the front page of the metro section of the local newspaper. In the rush of publicity which follows, Dr. Roy Clayton Rohmer, the district superintendent, arranges for a press conference with the famed anchorwoman Holly Blackwell and Channel Three Eyewitness News. While Ms. Blackwell is arranging The Souls onstage behind Dr. Rohmer, she makes an affected and condescending comment to Nadia about her red hair. Nadia snaps back with a cheeky but completely honest retort, causing the anchorwoman to turn her back on The Souls and direct the cameraman to focus almost exclusively on the superintendent. By the end of the press conference, Holly Blackwell has not addressed The Souls at all and has spoken to Mrs. Olinski only once, to ask her how she had picked her team. Mrs. Olinski's answer is left on the cutting room floor.
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Swept up in the excitement, Epiphany Middle School's principal, Mrs. Laurencin, orders six big buses to take Epiphany supporters to root for the team in Albany. Dr. Rohmer protests, saying that taxpayer money will pay for Mrs. Olinski's and The Souls' expenses, as well as the principal's and his own, but not for buses to take "the entire town of Epiphany" all the way to the capital. Nadia's mother sends a taped copy of the press conference to Grandma Sadie and Grandpa Nate at Century Village. Bella Dubinsky, the resident artist there, designs a T-shirt to be sold by the Boosters in Epiphany to raise money for the trip. Five hundred T-shirts, which feature a picture of a noose, sell for ten dollars apiece, and the buses are secured.
Mrs. Olinski drives to Albany herself in her van, and she takes Julian and Mr. Singh with her. Along the way, Mr. Singh comments that Mrs. Olinski is a very good driver. Mrs. Olinski responds that it has taken more courage for her "to get back into the passenger's side of an automobile than...to learn to drive again." Mr. Singh observes sagely that "it often takes more courage to be a passenger than a driver," referring indirectly to Mrs. Olinski's situation in the years since her accident, and to the difficulty of relinquishing control over one's life to others. He points out that, through his experiences living on a cruise ship, his son Julian has learned "to be a passenger" and is able to appreciate all the things he encounters along the way. Julian has the amazing gift of being able "to regard each port of call as part of [a] journey and not as [a] destination." One does not have to be in control to get the most out of life.
At the Finger Lake Regional Championships, Julian answers a question about acronyms, and the panel of experts declares him wrong. Knowing that their judgement is incorrect, Julian stands his ground and respectfully challenges their decision. The commissioner of education penalizes Julian and gives the opposing team from Maxwell a chance to answer the question. While they are still debating their answer, the experts, who are continuing to research the matter, signal to the commissioner. Julian is right after all, and Epiphany wins the round. Fittingly, the contest ends with a series of questions about the works of Lewis Carroll, including Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, with which Julian is intimately familiar. The sixth-grade team from Epiphany wins the regional championship.
The Souls come down from the stage and stand on either side of Mrs. Olinski, who is sitting in her wheelchair. They will not accept their trophy unless their teacher is with them, and the commissioner is forced to descend as well to give it to them. Mrs. Olinski and The Souls share the trophy, which is called "a loving cup."
Then, suddenly, "it is all over."