Margaret is nervous as she prepares for her first day of school. Because Nancy told her that no one wears socks with loafers, Margaret decides not to wear socks; unfortunately, her feet are aching and blistered by the time she finishes walking to the school building. When she gets to school, though, she sees that some of the girls are wearing socks anyway.
The teacher for Margaret's sixth-grade class is new, since the previous teacher had left the year before; he comes in and immediately writes his name, "Miles J. Benedict, Jr.," on the board. He is young and attractive, and this is his very first teaching position. He asks all of his students to fill out "about me" questionnaires. Margaret does so, listing her likes, dislikes, and a few of her views on life. Yet Margaret also has social issues to consider. During the day, Nancy slips Margaret a note telling her that the secret club will meet that day after school.
The other girls in the secret club, which convenes at Nancy's house, are Janie Loomis and Gretchen Potter. Nancy and the other Farbrook girls immediately begin gossiping about a girl named Laura Danker, who is more developed than the rest of the girls and has a bad reputation for "going behind the A&P" with boys. Janie is also convinced that Laura has already had her period, and it is revealed that none of the other girls have had it yet, which makes Margaret feel relieved about her own lack of development.
The girls then begin trying to think of a club name; after trying a few different options, they decide on the Four PTSes (Pre-Teen Sensations) and give each other code names. Nancy is Alexandra, and Margaret is Mavis.
After swearing an oath of secrecy, each of the four girls is required to think up a rule for the new club. Nancy's rule is that all members must wear bras, which makes both Margaret and Janie uncomfortable because they haven't started wearing bras yet. Gretchen declares that the first one to get her period has to tell the others all about it. Nancy says they all need to keep a Boy Book, which is a list of boys in order of preference. Unable to think of a better rule, Margaret decides that the PTSes should meet on a certain day each week. When Gretchen declares she can't do Tuesdays or Thursdays because of Hebrew School, the discussion turns to Margaret's lack of religion.
After some prompting, Margaret tells the story behind her unusual status: her maternal grandparents in Ohio refused to accept a Jewish son-in-law. On her end, Sylvia wasn't particularly happy about having a Christian daughter-in-law, but she accepted the situation. The other girls seem most interested in the social side of all this; they wonder aloud how Margaret's family is going to decide between a membership at the Y and the Jewish Community Center. Eventually, the newly-created PTSes decide that they will meet on Mondays, and Margaret goes home and informs her mother that she would like to begin wearing a bra.
At school the next day, Mr. Benedict asks Margaret why she wrote on her questionnaire that she hates religious holidays. She doesn't want to tell him at first, but finally she admits that her parents don't adhere to any particular religion and neither does she, though she is supposed to choose one when she grows up.
Later, Sylvia calls and tells Margaret she's arranged for them to get tickets for Lincoln Center shows one Saturday every month. Luckily, the Lincoln Center outings won't be starting right away, because that Saturday Margaret and her mother are going bra shopping. During this shopping trip, Margaret chooses a special bra called a Gro-Bra, which will grow with her as her bust expands. While paying, Margaret runs into Janie, who is shopping for a bra of her own.
It is becoming clear that Margaret's move represents so much more than just a switch of homes, towns, and schools. In a rather sudden fashion, Margaret has begun to realize that she is growing up, and it is becoming pretty clear that she's still a bit uncomfortable with this process. The friends Margaret is surrounded with have a lot to do with it; apparently, they've been thinking and talking for a while now about all the changes they're about to go through, while Margaret is only just being confronted with some of these new ideas. Yet her three new friends could also facilitate her growth over the course of the novel.
Another major part of the setting is introduced in these chapters: Margaret's new school. A lot of the novel will undoubtedly take place here, and much of the pressure she feels to grow up faster will come from the environment and the people Margaret encounters in sixth grade. Since all of the girls in the sixth grade are experiencing puberty at different rates, the differences between them can arouse feelings of being out of place, or even inspire vicious rumors, as evidenced by Laura Danker. The interactions that take place at Margaret's school are meant to teach Blume's readers important lessons about accepting differences, particularly during adolescence.
Another character with an uneasy place at the school, Mr. Benedict, is introduced in these chapters as well. Just like Margaret, Mr. Benedict is almost entirely new to Farbrook, and he must earn the respect of the students; the two characters, though fairly far apart in age, certainly parallel each other. And they can undoubtedly learn a lot from each other over the course of the novel.
There is another aspect of Mr. Benedict's situation that involves a degree of tension. Through the students' initial reactions to having a male teacher, it becomes pretty clear that Mr. Benedict's position was very unusual during this time period. (Remember, Blume's novel was written in 1970). Today, grammar school staffs are much more mixed in terms of gender; many students today wouldn't think twice about having a male teacher instead of a female teacher.
In these chapters, we also learn a little bit more about Margaret's religious situation and about the sources of her confusion in religious matters. Margaret has had very little exposure to either Judaism or Christianity, since her parents stopped practicing after they got married. The community around her is very religiously observant, so it seems that the topic has suddenly come up on her radar in a way that, perhaps, it never had before. This is a lot for Margaret to think about while she's facing the social and biological challenges of adolescence, but the constant discussions of the Y versus the Jewish Community Center, and Mr. Benedict's willingness to confront her about hating religious holidays, foreshadow greater religious issues to come.