A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Book 3, Chapters 15 - 19
Nolan's new house is described in minute detail, from the bathtub to the airshaft. Francie notices these details and compares them to stories she has learned from the Bible and Shakespeare. The house is four feet from a school, where Francie is taunted by a girl who is slapping erasers. She is the teacher's pet and Francie learns about favoritism in education. The nicest room in the house is the parlor. There is a piano for the Nolans in the parlor because the previous owners had trouble moving it and asked Katie if she would watch it for them. Katie decides that Francie and Neeley will learn how to play. Johnny sings along with them. Francie gets used to the new place, but begins to feel different and older. "Francie sat on a chair and was surprised that it felt the same as it had in Lorimer Street. She felt different. Why didn't the chair feel different?" Chapter 15, pg. 131.
Francie explores her new neighborhood and enjoys the stores. She especially likes the exotic store that sells spices, teas, and coffees, and is amazed at the Chinaman's dry-cleaning store. She discovers the concept of infinity as she looks through a magnifying glass.
Katie answers a card in a window for piano lessons. Katie convinces the teacher, Miss Lizzie Tynmore, to teach her for one hour in exchange for one hour of cleaning. She abides and teaches Katie piano as Francie and Neeley look on. After Miss Tynmore leaves, Katie teaches her children what she learns. All three learn to play piano for the price of one. Johnny tries to accomplish the same task for voice lessons with Miss Maggie Tynmore for Francie, but he fails in his exchange and the deal falls through.
School-time rolls around and the kids need to be immunized by law. Many of the poor immigrants fear this routine. Katie works so she cannot take Francie and Neeley to the clinic. Katie feels bad, but knows this is the way it has to be. "Besides, she said to her conscience, it's a hard and bitter world. They've got to live in it. Let them get hardened young to take care of themselves." Chapter 18, pg. 142. They go alone to the clinic terrified of the needle. The doctor and nurse giving the shots are snobby and look down upon Francie because she is poor and dirty. She tells them what she thinks of them and leaves with more pain in her heart than in her arm. Katie explains her vision of vaccinations to them and scares them with horror stories of what might happen to them if they touched the wound. Johnny sings to Francie until she's calm.
School is not the dream that Francie imagines. It is overcrowded and gives special privileges to the wealthier children. Francie tries to make the best of this school. She has wanted to go to school for so long. One day the teacher doesn't let Francie go to the bathroom and she ends up urinating right on the floor in the middle of class, only to be humiliated by everyone. Katie still won't let Sissy see the children, so she secretly surprises Francie after school with a soda. They talk and Francie tells Sissy what happened in school that day. The next morning Sissy pretends to be Francie's mother and tells the teacher, Miss Briggs, a story of lies that force her be kind to Francie and respectful of her needs. Sissy gives birth to another dead baby and Katie decides not to be as harsh on her as she has been in the past.