How has Mrs. Olinski chosen her sixth-grade Academic Bowl team? She had a number of answers. But were any of them true? How had she really chosen Noah and Nadia and Ethan and Julian? And why did they make such a good team? It was a surprise to a lot of people when Mrs. Olinski's team won the sixth-grade Academic Bowl contest at Epiphany Middle School. It was an even bigger surprise when they beat the seventh grade and the eighth grade, too. And when they went on to even greater victories, everyone began to ask: How did it happen?
It happened at least partly because Noah had been the best man (quite by accident) at the wedding of Ethan's grandmother and Nadia's grandfather. It happened because Nadia discovered that she could not let a lot of baby turtles die. It happened when Ethan could not let Julian face disaster alone. And it happened because Julian valued something important in himself and saw in the other three something he also valued.
Mrs. Olinski, returning to teaching after having been injured in an automobile accident, found that her Academic Bowl team became her answer to finding confidence and success. What she did not know, at least at first, was that her team knew more than she did the answer to why they had been chosen.
This is a tale about a team, a class, a school, a series of contests and, set in the midst of this, four jewel-like short stories -- one for each of the team members -- that ask questions and demonstrate surprising answers.
Elaine Lobl Konigsburg was an American author and illustrator of children's books and young adult fiction. She was the only author to win the Newbery Medal and a Newbery Honor in the same year (1968), with her second and first books respectively: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth. Kongisburg won a second Newbery Medal in 1997 for The View from Saturday, 29 years later, the longest span between any two Newberys awarded to one author.
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler was one of my favorites when as a youngster; I know I read the book two or three times at least. So when Mom hijacked my library account (hi, Mom!) and put this one on hold for me, I was eager to read through another Newbury-award-winning novel by E.L. Konigsberg.
Here's what I found on page one:
"They called themselves The Souls. They told Mrs. Olinski that they were The Souls long before they were a team, but she told them that they were a team as soon as they became The Souls."
Right, chicka-what? I had to read that a few times, and even then I still didn't get it. There were chapters full of things like that, referencing events that had already happened ...
... But never fear, the flashbacks are here.
Through these chapters, we got to see how four sixth-graders grew to become friends, how they were chosen to represent their school in the Academic Bowl. Except the flashbacks, though fine little stories, didn't seem to mesh as well in my mind as Konigsberg insinuated they should be meshing, nor were they as profound as I expected them to be. (And, fact: I found Noah-as-narrator to be funny for about a page, but then he just became annoying, and further fact: I still don't exactly get why he was included, let alone "the first chosen" for the bowl team. Was it because he re-gifted his "treasured gifts" to retirees? Should Post-It notes really be considered a treasure??)
I did find the differences in perspective interesting. I loved reading about Ethan and Julian especially, and I found Mrs. Olinski's perspective intriguing, as well -- especially in comparison to the students'.
But at the same time, issues were mentioned but not addressed to my satisfaction -- not even in quick summary. What about Ethan's insecurities regarding his brother Lucas? What about his love of the stage, and do the Souls even know about it? Was Julian ever bothered by people thinking he was Native American rather than Indian? Does Nadia really "get over" her parents divorce just by saving a bunch of sea turtles?
I guess we are led to believe that the kids overcome all these issues by being friends with one another, even if they never seem to talk about their problems with each other (too busy learning calligraphy, sipping tea slowly, etc.)
Instead of wrapping those kinds of issues up, we're left with chewy bits like this:
"The Souls were waiting. They opened the door for her. And that is when she knew that they knew that she knew." (p. 160)
I suppose it was supposed to be clever, this kind of writing style, but to me -- well, it just felt like the author was trying too hard.
We found this one to be tough going for my literate 9-year-old, and even for me at times. Ultimately, we read it aloud together for book group. There were a lot of things to like in this book, but ultimately the complicated time structure got in the way of the story.
Others have observed that the characters were interesting and quirky, lovable partly because they cared for one another. I agree.
One thing made me uncomfortable: the image of a noose became a positive symbol for the team. Tee shirts are printed up with a noose on them, because of a grammatical error that the principal from the opposing team makes vis-a-vis "hung" versus "hanged". At another time, a student brings an actual noose to a competition. None of these wise, interesting people, who apparently know thousands of historical anecdotes and facts, have any awareness that the noose in America is synonymous with the era of lynching, and is wildly inappropriate as a whimsical metaphor for tromping in an academic challenge. Reading it with my daughter, I had to explain to her why hanging was not funny, and how I was disappointed that their beloved and wise teacher had not explained why. Certain bad students were soundly chastised for cruelty for being a naughty and loud audience during a play, but carrying a noose to a competition is portrayed as endearing. My best explanation is that Ms. Konigsburg just loved grammar so much, that crimes against grammar (hanged/hung) trumped other concerns. All of the characters except the Singhs were white, so maybe the presumption is that no one would mind?
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that the book is racist. It's more tone deaf on race.
A classic, as timeless as Konigsburg's Mixed-Up Files. This is a beautiful story about friendship, family, kindness, and wonder. The joy of simple things, like slowly sipping tea with friends. The wonder of new journeys, of knowledge, of tiny baby turtles crawling out to sea. The miracle of finding friends, of family connections, and the families we create for ourselves as well.
E.L. Konigsburg's The View from Saturday weirdly morphs in my memory from time to time. I didn't read it as a kid so it's not nostalgia based. It morphs the way childhood memories do, in some weird way I can't quite explain to myself based on my moods. It's probably all depending on if I'm feeling moody and reclusive, anyway, even at the time. I'll get back to that, maybe. Sometimes I see it on my bookcase and groan, "You were so annoying!" and other times I'll sigh, "That's the cute loggerhead book!"
What is it with author ladies for young people including an older person that kids can relate to? Every book from Melina Marchetta (that I've read) has done so (no doubt to make her job as a teacher easier. "We can go to her!"). Konigsburg's From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil Frank E. Weiler (I didn't have to consult anything to spell this but I repeatedly misspell Konigsburg) had Mrs. Basil Frank E. Weiler, The Outcasts of 17 Schuyler Place (might've been another address. I don't remember any of my own childhood addresses. This only mattered when doing that "What is your porn name?" internet meme from a few years back) has the uncles (this is her weakest book, in my opinion). [I checked and it is 19. Curse my memory!]
I liked the Mrs. Basil Frank E. Weiler. That's a name you can trust. As someone who was picked on mercilessly for her name I would trust in the character building of name calling (and she chose it as her married name. Right on). She also had tons of books and cool categorizing methodology. I loved the two kids, their penchant for planning and carrying out schemes. I also loved running away fantasies (the time I tried to carry it out is not a fun story. I don't wish to bum out this happy-go-lucky review).
Schuyler Place started out cool. Stick it to the man, and taking over individual art and making every town look exactly the same (those bastards! Let's stick it to 'em!) story. But the whole summer camp part (I related to the girl's intense hatred of it. I have camp horror stories and I only went for two days). Then there was some dumb romance, dumb idealism that didn't fit stick it to the man rather than patting your own butt praise. Yawn.
The View from Saturday is, to me, somewhere between these two books. The four kids are supposed to be shy rejects, according to the book jacket. They were the kind of brainy, did-everything-right kids that I'd eye on grade report days that crowed about how well they did when I'd stare mournfully at my math grades and dread going home (that their parents did most of their assignments for them also seemed unfair. No, not seemed. It was unfair!). There's something about groups like these in stories that feels exclusive. Me at any age gets the feeling that these stories are written for a certain type of reader in mind: the kid that got perfect grades. They won't idle away in angst (maybe not even in the teen years). I'm always going to wallow. That's my cross to bear (sigh).
The parts of the book that annoyed the shit out of me was the teacher hand-picking the cream of the crop for her idyllic saturday meetings of precociousness. If I wanted to read about this I'd pick up the autobiography of the boy band svegali.
I liked it better when they separated and communicated their own lives through letters. The loggerhead turtles were the best. It isn't fair that I've lived in Florida for such a long time and have never seen a loggerhead turtle (troll bait alert! I'm hoping to be yelled at for lamenting my own not seeing a loggerhead as if there aren't different planes of thought capable in a person's mind: "Loggerheads are so cute!" and the more overwhelming desire that they live as well as they ought). The kids worked together better, for me, in their own lives rather than organized hyper "We got better grades than you!" stuff. Does anyone want to listen to somebody else's in-jokes? I wouldn't have respected a kid that trusted adults, anyway. Since I still never found organized adulthood to trust, I still didn't respect it. That side of me is why I can still enjoy some kids books, I think.
High fives are okay. Ass-patting is bad. I'll take a hug.
When in grade school they made us write journals to our teachers. My teacher repeatedly made me start mine over. If there was the thing that anyone wanted to hear, I had no idea what it was. I just asked a lot of questions.
They gave me another weirdo kid in Missouri to be a pen pal with. We wrote letters outside of class because we got in trouble for not sticking to the assignments. Mostly we just talked about how stuff sucked (big surprise). What is the fun in that? Guess we wouldn't have been invited to tea! (Cookies would be nice.)
My twin says that they write in those kinds of adults to counteract those sleazy Nickelodeon type shows when the kids live in a world without adults. Those shows are annoying, this is true. I'd rather read about naturally open relationships that are earned rather than propaganda about magic world of adults of people who know everything. 'Cause I feel like shit 'cause I never entered that world. And it was a letdown back then. Why do that to anybody?
E. L. does it again. This is about a Trivia club at a middle school around a group of 4 6th graders. Our school called this Quiz bowl and I never tried out for it, but I was in the audience each year to watch and learn. I learned so many interesting things. I still remember things like Yoknapatawpha was Faulkner's imagination setting for his novels. It stuck. I have also been on a huge Jeopardy binge since they put it on Netflix's recently and I saw the tournament of champions.
I think this is such an interesting story. I first I really didn't understand what was going on. She tells the past of each of the 4 students and how they all relate. She also goes into the teacher of the group and how she puts them all together. It all wraps up so beautifully at the end and she puts it in this neat bow. I love it.
The kids I hung out with in High School were very smart, funny and intelligent. We were mostly polite and respectful as well. I totally related to these characters. I knew several of these kids in my high school.
Another detail I love about this story is there is a focus on finding a place for kindness and listening. These kids have tea every Saturday and they listen to each other and they are well behaved. They do other fun things too. I love this quality of kindness she brings out in the story. There is a line I can't quite remember, but a character or narrator says that to get along in society, we need a level of kindness and civility that is lacking in much of society today. I tend to agree with this. Jumping to quick judgements aren't the best.
I absolutely loved this story. I loved how the beginning you are trying to piece it all together and how satisfying the end is. What bothered me was at the beginning she would ask a question and then jump into the past of a character and we had to wait to verify if our answer was correct or not. That is cruel. Oh well.
There is also a production of Annie going on during this as well. There is a foreign student or two that I love. I always wanted to me the people who came from outside our culture. This was a fabulous story for me personally. I think it's great for anyone who enjoys trivia and who appreciated being smart in school.
At first this book seemed to be a children's version of Slumdog Millionaire: Four kids take part in a quiz and beat everybody else although they are among the youngest competitors. As in Slumdog Millionaire nobody understands how they know all the answers. So little stories are told showing how they had all this knowledge. But this book soon takes a different turn. It is most of all the story of a wonderful friendship. I wish I had friends like these four kids!
I think I wasted a good part of life reading this book I don't know why anyone would want to read it. If I were the author I'd be so ashamed of myself for writing such a terrible piece of garbage. I wish I could give it zero stars.
"So, when he asked her how she had chosen the four members of her academic team, Mrs. Olinski knitted her brow and answered with hushed seriousness. "In the interest of diversity," she said, "I chose a brunette, a redhead, a blond, and a kid with hair as black as print on paper." Dr. Rohmer was not amused. He gave Mrs. Olinski a capsule lecture on what multiculturalism really means. "Oh," she said, "then we're still safe, Dr. Rohmer. You can tell the taxpayers that the Epiphany Middle School team has one Jew, one half-Jew, a WASP, and an Indian." (PG. 22)
YA--Newbery Medal winner
On my library search through the YA aisle I have been looking at the spines for the sticker that says Newbery winner. So I grabbed this title without taking out my cellphone and opening up my Goodreads app.
I did not enjoy this novel for a few reasons. My main reason was the lack of diversity from the author. The top quote was distasteful as a reader. It was obvious the author only wanted to talk about Jewish characters while the others that were not had disrespectful names like WASP (had to Google this term) or Indian, but no one asked what nationality he was as he had an English accent. But I kept reading because it was a short book.
Then the nooses came out. The 6th graders are in a competition and a teacher from another school tells Mrs. Olinski they will be hung and she corrects his use of the word to hanged. When the kids win that part of the competition the other classmates come out with nooses as a "joke" to the other school. It was weird. I don't see how a noose in any situation is funny. Mrs. Olinski, being a fabulous teacher, doesn't go out of her way to correct the behavior of the kids. Then the noose shirts are made to support the school. I don't get it.
Overall, the story was about kids and what brings them together. I didn't connect with the characters and I didn't care very much for the story line, but I am not the target audience, in all fairness. I just believe when a book, no matter the age, should be able to connect with all ages.
The Newbery Medal Association makes me rethink what I'm reading. I'm sure there were better books that year but no one ever remembers 2nd or 3rd place.
LOVED this! I picked it up because a) I love Konigsburg's From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankwiler, and b) because it concerns the members of an Academic Bowl team, and I spent most of middle school and all of highschool taking part in such nerdly pursuits.
Konigsburg deftly weaves together the stories of five characters: the Academic Bowl team members, Noah, Nadia, Julian, and Ethan, and their teacher/coach, Mrs. Olinski. There's no plot summary that can do the book justice, because the plot is just a very small element in the actual story, which is about bravery and friendship. The book's also wickedly funny -- Konigsburg, as usual, never missing an opportunity to poke fun at officious figures of authority.
A lot of the reviews on Amazon.com question whether this book actually speaks to the children that form its ostensible audience. It's a good question; it's really a very sophisticated book, and the four sixth-graders are most unusual and wise beyond their years. I don't think it would appeal to all children -- but I don't think the Newberry is really about choosing a book that will appeal to everyone. I think it will find its own dedicated audience who adore it in the same way many of us adored From the Mixed-Up Files. I definitely would have loved it when I was in sixth grade.
《هو الحق》 یک کتاب روون و شیرین🌼🌱 کتاب حول یک معلم دارای معلولیت و چهارتا از شاگردهاش میگذره هر کدوم از این شاگردها یک ماجرایی داشتن و چالش هایی رو گذروندن ، من کتاب رو دوست داشتم ، ساده بود و دلنشین😊 ۲۸آذر۱۴۰۰🍁🍂
First read in sixth grade for school; then, recently, I picked it up again on a whim, because working in literature education with kids of a similar reading level made me think back to the books I read when they were around their age. I remember finding this book interesting, but a little weird. But my impression of this book seemed to ripen with age until I was convinced it was canonical lit for sixth graders everywhere.
Well, the reread was disappointing. Despite it being written in the nineties, the dialogue already seemed outdated--what was up with the lack of contractions? I thought about it and I don't really think it was a characterization thing because so many of the characters talked that way, without contractions. Back in sixth grade, I thought the Souls were kind of mystical, an elevated species of middle-schooler to be emulated. Now, I just think they're slightly pretentious and contrived. There was falsity ringing from the pages, and it was disappointing for me to discover that the magic I had attributed to this novel may not have been there all along.
I was quite enjoying this, but the character of Mr. Singh bothered me, and the behavior of Mrs. Olinski, at the end of the book, made no sense. Mr. Singh comes off a little too strongly as the mysterious, wise Asian, somehow privy to the whole internal truth of the various character's stories, despite being almost a non-entity the whole of the novel. Mrs. Olinski even has thoughts to that effect when talking to him "I had never told anyone ______" How did he know? How, indeed. Considering that tolerance is one of the minor themes of the book, the stereotype really stood out, in a bad way.
And then there is Mrs. Olinski's bizarre near-breakdown over the colour turquoise. I read that section three times, to see if I was missing something to explain her level of overreaction (fashion-rage?) during what should be a reunion with an old colleague. Could not find it.
I've got to stop listening to things on audio books. It makes it really hard to follow and this book has an inexplicably bizarre format. You start off in the state contest, which has answers that segway into long short stories so that you get to know the main characters. Then you deal with the teacher, then suddenly you're back in time at the first local contest and find out how the team came together in the first place, but with audio, you can't remember the name of the state contest and it becomes really, really confusing.
Nadia was one of the WORST female characters I've come across in a while. When she grows up, she will be the shining embodiment of the Victorian Hysteric. I could not even get what her conflict with Ethan was over and the whole "I need to know what you know that I do not know about what you know".... WTF seriously? Is that supposed to be cute? It goes on and on and it's so clunk and stupid. I wanted to rip my hair out and scream. She never uses contractions and it sounds like something from 1930. Her dialogue is SO unbelievably stuffy, she is so smug, I wanted to slap her. I couldn't find one redeeming aspect to her character.
Also, the teacher? Who ever voiced her made her sound vaguely alarmed at all things at all times. I also had trouble believing her as a character. Her only central conflict is how did she choose the team members? And honestly, it isn't that interesting of a dilemma to have as much time in the book devoted to it as there is. The second to last chapter where Julian's dad has to lay it out for her piece by piece in excruciating detail? Maybe she got a head wound instead of being crippled by her accident. God. She is SO dumb, you can't even understand how she managed to put together the team and get it to succeed. I also hate hand-holding. Yes this book is for children, but if you need to have an entire chapter that is nothing but explanation, then you clearly failed as a writer. But WHY are they the Souls? Gag me. But WHY did Julian need to be the final member? GTFO.
This book was SO boring. I wanted to cry as it drug on and on. If I wasn't marooned driving six hours with nothing else to do, I would have given up on it. I can't imagine what it beat out the year it was made a prize winner. There must have been zero decent children's books, or the committee just felt the need to reward her for her past success
This book is atrocious. Clunky, badly thought out, lacking real conflict, boring, unbelievable, and all the details about the taxpayers and the man who didn't speak well but somehow never got fired.... Who cares? A kid wouldn't care. Everything that tried to be cute and funny was just out of place and unnecessary. This book is so dated and unappealing that I was shocked to find out it's fairly modern. Do yourself a favor and consign it to the dustbin of history.
Do YOU want a book that goes deep into a plot? Do YOU want a book that is easy to go along with so you can sink into the story? Well, you will not find it here. What I got out of the book: People get smarter when they learn something. If you ask your mother a question, and she answers it, you are getting smarter. Do you need to go into detail about how they learned an answer to a question when it is just that? Is it really necessary to go into complete frame for frame detail about a person learning calligraphy? Absolutely not. "But thats the entire book!", E.L. Konigsburg, this is your entire book. There is no plot. There is no need for an entire chapter to be about somebody getting a puzzle. Dear god, do not read this book.
I still don't see what all the fuss is with Konigsburg. Judging from the back-of-the-book synopsis, this novel should tick all the boxes for me: academic teams (I was one of *those* kids), a scrappy group of outsiders who become friends (ditto), and lots of little synchronous details which might be random but maybe fate? Despite this, I found the characters shallow (with the exception of Julian), Konigsburg's tone cloying, and the denouement extremely disappointing. In addition, I thought Konigsburg mishandled the portrayal of Mrs. Olinski's mobility impairment. Overall, this was a remarkably forgettable Newbery winner.
It was really good. This book has been sitting in my bedroom bookshelf for a very long time, untouched and unread. It was probably a gift from my grandmother, who used to go to Half-Priced Books, garage sales, and library for-sale sections because she knew how much I loved to read. She doesn't do that very much anymore, but around 50% of my library is because of her. This book was a product from one of those gifts. I never read it when I was younger, as I was a firm believer in judging a book by it's cover. Simply, I did not like this cover (though, I do now). I also knew not what the Newberry Honor was, so I had no interest in picking it up. Fast forward to now, with me reading it long overdue.
The story-telling aspect of this was amazing. The strength and main focus of this novel was the characters; if the characters had been less important in the development of the story, this book would have been very weak. I also found the format of telling the story of the Academic Decathlon team through it's members talking not of the Academic Decathlon surprising, yet it paid off. I was bored in the beginning, but as I got invested in each person (especially Julian, my favorite character) the book's subtlety began to excite me. I think this is the kind of book that gets better with every re-read.
OK. I'm rewriting this because the first one didn't save! Incidentally, while reading I didn't notice that it's the same author as one of my absolute favorite books as a kid, The Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler!
Overall I liked this book. The characters are vivid and mostly believable. The situations the author puts them in left me laughing out loud at numerous points. I also liked many of the book's messages, such as: a gathering of oddballs is a glorious thing, kindness matters, sometimes kids are more mature than adults, and "tea is always at four." It is also filled with interesting informational tidbits, like that the word "tip" is actually an acronym for "to insure promptness."
The structure was also interesting. By this I mean not the beginning when a team of four students (self-named "The Souls") has almost won the championship in an academic competition and then going back into their lives and tracing how they became a team and finally won, though this is good, too, and not laid out in a mechanical fashion. What I rather mean is that although we are not surprised when the third-person narration shifts from a focus on (and insight into the thoughts of) one child character to the next, we ARE surprised when we finally peer into the mind of their teacher and we realize that the book is as much about her as it is about these four young people. Given the fact that she has just returned to teacher after a long hiatus following her becoming paralyzed following a car accident, and is struggling to find her place in the world in much the same manner as the students, this structure helps lend weight to the book.
What was difficult for me was to envision for whom among my students this book might be appropriate. Although I think many English language learners might find its themes interesting, particularly given that one of the students is something of an oddball because he is not typically American (his father is Indian and he was raised on a cruise ship; he speaks with a British accent and wears shorts and knee socks to school). However, to understand the humor in the book requires a certain cultural familiarity. I haven't been to Florida but could SEE the Jewish retirees, and that's part of what made me laugh aloud. With the exception of a limited few, my native or close-to-native English speaking students, on the other hand, would not likely be attracted either to the academic competition plotline or the rural and mostly white world depicted in the book. I would recommend the book to my daughter in 10 years, but I feel uncomfortable thinking about the fact that this might mean that this book is really white and middle class and that no urban kids of color would ever want to read such a book. Food for thought, anyway.
For BTR folks:
Snapshot: See above.
Hook: Funny, about outsiders, rich characters, plot that pulls you along. And not too difficult reading despite this depth.
Challenges: Narrative structure! The switching of narrative perspective would be difficult for readers unaccustomed to it, as would the time progression. The characters are connected in multiple ways, too, which requires attentiveness to figure out. And, as mentioned, for ELLs many cultural references would require explanation.
Student in mind: As I said above, none that I have currently. But I would recommend it to more advanced ELLs or any "outsider." OK, so maybe Shaina?
Conference notes: Given the challenges mentioned above, I would check in frequently to ask "Who's speaking?" and "What's his or her relationship with the other characters you've been introduced to so far?" In addition, because the way that those characters' self-perception and relationship with others changes over the book is what makes it such an interesting read, I would definitely ask about that.
Level: Middle school, for an eager reader, but not so juvenile as to preclude use for h.s. students. Not a text I would choose as a class text, but a good one for a literature circle, since it would provoke interesting discussion about the social pressures of schools.
Very good book--my mom correctly described it as a "quiet upper." Moms are often but not always right...but mom was right on this one.
Was glad to finish it at the end of a rough day. The book ends with strong messages of "kindness prevails" and "rely on others; they won't disappoint."
Others have read and hailed Koningsbird, but this is my first book of hers that I have read. Her writing and storytelling prowess is jaw-dropping. I wanted to start it again just after finishing it. These sentences jumped out at me:
"Inside me there was a lot of best friendship that no one but Ginger was using." P 42
"I am very good at gazing. I am also very good at listening. Gazing and listening are all right for church, but they sure kill a lot of conversations." P 64
"Sometimes silence is a habit that hurts." P 70
"By the time they get to sixth grade, honor roll students won't risk making a mistake, and sometimes to be successful you have to risk making mistakes." P 120
"After my accident it took more courage to get back into the passenger's side of an automobile than it took for me to drive again." P 151
Very, very good. Fine for a young reader, but some maturity is required to appreciate the subtle wisdom sprinkled throughout the pages of this book.
A couple weeks ago when E.L. Konigsburg passed away, I promised myself that I would re-read The View from Saturday. But the days have been flying by in a whirl of rehearsals and resumes and everything, so it wasn't until yesterday that I finally sat myself down with a slow cup of tea--just like Mrs. Olinski at Sillington House!--and got down to it.
The book is much as I remembered it--a little slow, but ultimately very rewarding and interesting, with four unbelievably precocious 12-year-olds at its center. I remember thinking when I first read The View from Saturday that no sixth graders talked the way Noah, Nadia, Ethan and Julian did, and I still think that, but I noticed this time through that each of the students really does have a unique way of speaking, and for that I applaud Ms. Konigsburg. I especially like that Nadia never uses contractions, and that Noah begins half of his sentences by saying "Fact."
What I like best about this book is how each of the members of Mrs. Olinski's academic bowl team--calling themselves The Souls--is able to answer questions in the final round based on their experiences, rather than their studying and practicing. Noah knows that "calligraphy" means "beautiful writing" because of the time he spent at Century Village, when he learned to write from former bookkeeper Tilly Nachman. Nadia knows about the Sargasso Sea because of the turtle walks she went on with her grandfather and his wife. Ethan knows at least one of the famous women in the question he answers--Elizabeth Cady Stanton--because of his own family history, and Julian supplies the acronyms "posh" and "tip" from his British heritage and his life on board a cruise ship.
This progression suggests to me that Mrs. Olinski, who never really knows why she chose her bowl team, chose them because of who they were and where they had been, rather than what they KNEW, to say nothing of how they connected to each other. Would Noah have known the answer to the calligraphy question if Nadia's grandfather and Ethan's grandmother hadn't gotten married, for example? As I've grown up, it's been my experience that the vast majority of the knowledge I've acquired hasn't been in school and hasn't been deliberately learnt; instead, I've picked it up along the way without necessarily meaning to, and have been surprised to find that I knew it. Even if it seems improbable that the kids would have been asked questions pertaining so closely to their lives, Ms. Konigsburg's point rings true to me.
A group of four sixth grade classmates, with inexplicible ties between them, form a group they call The Souls, for inexplicable reasons. Then they are chosen by a teacher to compete, as a group, in an academic bowl...or did they choose her?
As you can probably tell by my description, and my one star rating, of course, I was not fond of this book. Too much in it was pat, pretty, unrealistic, and completely unexplained. So many times, I found myself saying 'that would never happen,' or 'how would they know that?' or 'that person would never react that way.' (Most notably, the trite ending to Nadia's anecdote, Mr Singh acting as a deus ex machina, and knowing the unknowable, and I'm sorry, but no school would get so excited about an academic bowl. They just wouldn't.) This was surprising, because the author used to be a teacher, but seemingly had no understanding of how sixth graders actually behave. Added to this was the lack of any contractions in speech, which added to the unrealistic feel.
The method of telling the story was similar to what the author used in A Proud Taste For Scarlet and Miniver, but it didn't work well in this story. To elaborate: the first four chapters would begin at the academic bowl, narrated by the teacher, with one of the four students ringing in to answer a question, and would then launch into that student telling an anecdote, in their own voice, which explains how they acquired the knowledge to answer that question...I thought. Third and fourth students' turns, however, didn't follow this pattern, since their anecdotes had nothing at all to do with the question or answer, and then the rest of the chapters proceeded with the plot, in the normal fashion. Oddly, one of the students had a verbal tic, when telling their anecdote, of using the word 'fact' a lot, but that tic continued, after the story wasn't being told in that character's voice anymore.
All in all, it was a muddled, confused, unexplained story, and I was happy to have finished it. It's an award winner, but gets no award from me!
A Proud Taste of Scarlet and Miniver to this one by way of author (among other things)
This one really knocked off my socks! I love the writing of E.L. Konigsburg, and it was mostly this wonderfully perceptive story that first incited my love of her books. The author's love of learning and academia for the sake of increasing one's mind are evident in the text, but E.L. Konigsburg takes that affection for intellectualism and masterfully forms it into a magical story, filled with astonishingly special characters and their one-of-a-kind situations. The way that E.L. Konigsburg manages to fashion the stories of all these splendid people together is one of the greatest accomplishments that I have seen in the realm of literature. The author's mind-blowing wisdom is at its very pinnacle here, and it was a greater show than I ever expected to witness, to have the opportunity to sit back and drink in the seemingly enchanted story thread as it wove its way along. This group of sixth-grade academic bowl champions is a very special conglomeration, and the reader could sense throughout the pages of the book that something important was at work. All of these elements blended together to create suspense even as the deep feelings of those associated with the academic bowl team came forth in memorably wise ways. It's difficult to give a good synopsis of such a story, but I will sum it up in this way: I give "The View from Saturday" five stars, a rating that I reserve only for books that are so good that they change my life. I think that, of all E.L. Konigsburg's masterful tomes, this one is her very best.
This is another of my all-time favorite books, up there with The Sibyl and Atlantis, this one because it is well-written (of course) and because reading it is not unlike giving your soul a bath. I reread it about once a year, and this time I read it aloud to my younger sister, which made the experience even better. The View from Saturday is the story of four children, their sixth-grade teacher and an academic bowl competition, in about that order. Structurally, it is a bit of a doozy the first time around. It begins in the final round of the championship Academic Bowl and slowly uncovers what is essentially the entire year leading up to the close of that round, out of order. The bulk of the first four chapters is devoted to four brilliant short stories that explain how the characters met and discovered their identity both as individuals and as a group. These stories become "journeys" that allow them to find "kindness" and compassion. The rest of the novel bounces between the actual year-long preparation from the Academic Bowl championships and a continuation of the final round. This is a book about people and compassion, rather explicitly stated at the end of the novel, but brilliantly realized nonetheless. When The Souls (the protagonists) finally assemble as a group they find "Sillington House [the bed and breakfast owned by the father of one of the boys] is its own place" and that taking the time to really interact with others on a meaningful and compassionate level is vitally important. The Souls' Saturday gatherings for tea serve as the backdrop to and impetus for this discovery of connections. The descriptions in the book are vivid and typically gentle, as befits the novel's tone. The commissioner of education wears a "precision fit pin-striped suit" and has hair "tinted the color of peach pits," raised thumbs are "a forest of small apostrophes at the ends of their closed fists," and in the Sillington House dining room is "an assortment of chairs, none of which matched, but seemed to." These passages are held together by effectively paced narration and enjoyable dialogue. The characters are a bit precocious (particularly Nadia and Noah), but that is not purely in their idiosyncratic ways of speaking; their neuroses and oddities becomes a fundamental part of their personalities, from Noah's need for precision to Nadia's fascination with her dog. All the characters are fully realized (with the possible exception of Mr. Singh, who at times seems reduced to a sort of "wise sage" character), which strengthens the message of personal caring. Highly recommended with a reminder that "tea is always at four".
Kudos to Konigsburg for winning the Newbery Medal twice! When I laughed out loud in the first few pages, I knew I would enjoy The View from Saturday. This book is positive and upbeat and the characters are empowered by their friendship. I loved the way Julian changed the cruel words on his book bag to say "I am a passenger on Spaceship Earth!"
I also really liked the themes of kindness and courtesy. Nadia put her hurt feelings aside to help save the turtles. The Souls banded together to support each other and their teacher. Julian even chose kindness to his enemy with the dog situation during "Annie." I'd love to visit Sillington House if it were a real place. The real Finger Lakes region in New York is gorgeous, too.
All four kids in this book are precocious oddballs, but they are appealing because of the views we get inside their heads and hearts. I liked them all, probably Ethan the most.
Based on the four books I've read by Konigsburg, I'd say she writes unusual stories. Many stories could be written about middle school academic bowl teams, but only she would write this one. I'm not trying to state the obvious; I'm trying to put my finger on her appeal to me. Konigsburg's characters are quirky and their relationships are complex. Her plots have some unexpected twists. She likes to put a bit of mystery in her stories, little surprises for the reader. She comes at things from oblique angles, but ties everything together in the end when all is revealed. It seems to me that, like Julian, the author enjoys being a bit of a "magician," and she plays the crowd well. I always learn things from her books, too. In this book I learned fascinating bits about calligraphy, sea turtles, acronyms such as "tip," etc.
Finally, she is just a good writer, a master at her craft. Take this image for example: "As he ambled down his row toward the front of the room, smiling faces lifted and tilted toward him like the broad front faces of sunflowers as they follow the sun across heaven." (p.129)
I'll end with a quote I liked on the back of my copy of the book. "In no other book this year were the potentials of both heart and mind in children laid out with such persuasive clarity... it's a jubilant, unique, tour de force." --John Peters, Chair, 1997 Newbery Award Committee
Noah: Best Man at Nadia’s grandfather’s and Ethan’s grandmother’s wedding and writes calligraphy.
Ethan: Fervent lover of musicals and one of the oldest families in Epiphany.
Nadia: Rescues baby turtles and is confused about her parent’s divorce.
Julian: The English boy who invites them all to tea.
The Souls are four people looking for friends, and very smart. They all are in the same 6th grade class, with the new teacher Mrs. Olinski. The 6th grade academic bowl is approaching, and their paraplegic teacher picks the four underdogs for her team. Somehow, Mrs. Olinkski made four choices that took her team to the state finals (don’t worry, you know this from the begining).
The odd thing about this book is, well, I hate to be so critical, but many of Konigsburg’s sentences end with prepositions. They have to be good, or else it wouldn’t have won the Newbery Honor, but every time I read a sentence, it felt like fingernails on a chalkboard at first.
There is some fabulous writing, however.
Eva Marie Olinski watched Margaret Draper Diamondstein hug her grandson The new Mrs. Diamondstein was dressed in a jogging suit. A turquoise jugging suit. Turquoise! She had always regarded the color turquoise, like shocking pink and chartreuse, as the color equivalent of the word ain’t quaint when seldom used, but vulgar in great doses.
I just find that sentence the mix of narration and opinion to send tingles up my arm. And when you think that the entire book is like that, the wonderful narrator makes up for the prepositions, of which I have yet to get used to (pun intended).
ENGLISH: Third time I've read this book. This is a book about kindness: kindness to people; kindness to animals; kindness to one another; kindness to enemies; kindness to a disabled teacher; kindness to everybody.
This is a book about journeys: a journey to an atypical condominium; a journey to the Sargasso Sea; a journey in the school bus; a journey around the world learning magic and many other things; a journey to the top of the world, made to help another person to handle her psychological problems.
ESPAÑOL: He leído tres veces este libro. Este libro trata sobre la bondad: bondad hacia las personas; bondad para con los animales; bondad de unos para con otros; bondad con los enemigos; bondad para con una maestra discapacitada; bondad para con todo el mundo.
Este es un libro sobre viajes: un viaje a un condominio atípico; un viaje al mar de los Sargazos; un viaje en el autobús escolar; un viaje alrededor del mundo, aprendiendo magia y muchas cosas más; un viaje a la cima del mundo, para ayudar a otra persona a resolver sus problemas psicológicos.