A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Chapters 20 - 25
Epidemics of lice and mumps break out in the schools and Katie battles them fiercely. She scrubs the kids' hair and douses their heads with kerosene, forcing them to carry a horrid stench, while ignoring the teacher's orders to stop. Although Francie is shunned, she never gets sick. "She had become accustomed to being lonely. She was used to walking alone and to being considered 'different.' She did not suffer too much." Chapter 20, pg. 160. No matter how poorly she is being treated, Francie truly enjoys school because she likes being a part of a community and likes feeling safe. She loves the visiting music and art teachers, Mr.Morton and Miss Bernstone. She also learns to read and devise numbers. This discovery changes her view on life.
"From that time on, the world was hers for the reading. She would never be lonely again, never miss the lack of intimate friends. Books became her friends and there was one for every mood...On the day when she first knew she could read, she made a vow to read one book a day as long as she lived." Chapter 22, pg. 164
Francie explores a nicer neighborhood made up of mostly American born families, as opposed to her neighborhood of Irish, Welch, and English born families. She is the only American born child in her school. She decides she wants to attend this nicer school and Johnny writes a "white lie" letter to the principal saying that they are moving and she will need a transfer. Katie is upset with the danger it can put the family in, but she transfers schools nonetheless. People are much nicer there and she adores the beloved janitor, Mr. Jenson. She walks forty-eight blocks everyday to get there, but this school shows her that there are other attainable worlds out there aside from the one in which she is born. Everywhere Francie lives, she sees a tree growing in the yard with strong branches and soft leaves.
Francie counts the years passing by the holidays instead of the seasons. She especially loves Halloween and Election Day, on which Katie and Johnny consistently argue about politics. Johnny loves the Democrats. The family attends a city social where Sergeant Michael McShane spots Katie and finds her attractive. Katie hates politicians, especially with the Democrats back in the office.
Johnny takes Francie to Bushwick Avenue in Brooklyn, the mecca of politics and new wealth. They get excited about Democracy and are proud to live in Brooklyn.