Melody is a brilliant girl with an almost photographic memory. She has amazing thoughts and ideas, but she’s never shared them with anyone. In fact, she’s never spoken a word. Melody lives with cerebral palsy, and people don’t realize that she is gifted, because she can’t control her body. She’s never been able to communicate, and she is extremely frustrated. When her school starts using an inclusion model, Melody is given the opportunity to be around “normal” kids. With the help of her neighbor, Ms. Valencia, who believes Melody can do amazing things, her new aid, Catherine, and a computerized speaking device, Melody finally finds her voice. She surprises everyone with how much intelligence hides inside her afflicted body.
Melody is incredibly smart and has an impressive memory. She can remember every song, every person, and every fact she ever comes across. She has a million things to say. Unfortunately, she’s never been able to say anything or communicate in any truly meaningful way; she was born with cerebral palsy and can’t control her body, including her vocal chords. Up until this point, she has been an only child. Her parents give her all the love in the world, but they don’t always understand her, because she can only communicate through grunts and small movements with one arm.
Melody’s neighbor, a sweet woman named Violet Valencia, takes care of her often, when Melody’s parents are working. Ms. V has so much faith in Melody and has never allowed her to use her disability as an excuse. Ms. V knows how smart Melody is, and she wants Melody to make everyone else understand that as fact. She pushes Melody to learn and even teaches her to read. Melody’s own doctors have never thought she was capable of learning, but Ms. V puts them in their place by teaching her to read. She even sets up a communication board to let Melody tell people how she’s feeling and what she needs. It’s not fancy, but Melody can point to the word hungry or bathroom and people can know what she needs. She no longer feels like she is trapped.
When Melody’s mom becomes pregnant, Melody and her parents worry that the baby might also have cerebral palsy. Penny, the new baby, has no issues at all. In addition to a new baby sister, Melody also finds out that she will able to go to school as a fifth-grader in an inclusion-model school setting. This means that she will be able to participate in regular classes with “normal” kids. Melody will finally have the opportunity to feel like a (somewhat) normal kid and make friends her own age.
Once school starts, Melody gets a one-on-one aide, Catherine. Catherine is very nice and very helpful. She treats Melody like a real person, not just a challenged kid. She helps Melody take full advantage of the classes in which she participates. She even helps Melody to acquire a fancy, new computer that helps Melody to really communicate with the people around her and show how intelligent she really is.
Within months of getting her new communication computer, Melody is winning competitions at school and becoming a team-member of the school’s prestigious quiz show team. Melody’s one new friend, Rose, is also on the team. Unfortunately, a bully named Claire is on the team as well. Rose is Melody’s cheerleader, while Claire constantly puts Melody down. She even accuses Melody of cheating. The team’s teacher/advisor, Mr. Dimmings, is reluctant to believe that Melody is capable enough to be on the team, but admits he is wrong when Melody is the only person to score perfectly on the tryout test. Ms. V and Melody’s parents are proud of her for making the team. Melody and Ms. V study industriously for weeks, preparing for the regional quiz show, which will be televised. Though Melody is nervous, she is excited.
Melody helps lead her team to victory, and they earn a trip to the national quiz show in Washington DC. The team celebrates by going to dinner and Melody has a hard time getting into the restaurant and eating. (It’s not handicap accessible and she has a very hard time eating anyway.) Claire throws up at the table. The festivities end, and Melody feels like even though Claire was the one who made a scene, Melody was the one who was being looked at. The local media goes berserk and the local newspaper runs a story about the team winning, but the focus is on Melody and her handicap. The team is unhappy that Melody is getting all the attention. Melody and her teammates practice everyday after school for two weeks.
Finally, when the big day comes, Melody and her mom drive to the airport only to learn that there is a huge weather system that has made the airlines cancel all flights. To make matters worse, Melody’s team had met for breakfast, not invited her, and arrived at the airport early. This gave them the opportunity to catch an earlier flight when the airlines started cancelling. Nobody called Melody to tell her.
The team loses without Melody. Her mother says she ought to stay home from school. It’s a miserable rainy day, and her mom thinks she’d be better off not seeing the team on the first day back. Melody insists on going. While they are backing out of the driveway, Penny runs behind the car and is hit. Melody had tried to warn her mom, but was unable. She was helpless. She feels like she had the day her goldfish had jumped out of its bowl. Melody is frantic that Penny will have brain damage and wind up like her, in a wheelchair, unable to communicate. She feels like it is her fault for insisting on going to school.
Penny is fine. Melody returns to school and her teammates are guilt-ridden for leaving her behind, as well as depressed for having lost. They try to give her their tacky, tiny participation trophy, but she smashes it. She thinks they deserve it. Mr. Dimmings apologizes to Melody for underestimating her. Melody leaves her inclusion classroom.