Title: The View from Saturday
Author: E. L. Konigsburg
Publisher: Antheneum Books for Young Readers
Audience: Ages 8-12 years
Summary: In this Newberry Medal winner, Mrs. Olinski’s Academic Bowl team is unique. They are the first sixth-grade team to reach the finals of the New York State Academic Bowl tournament. Ever. This is after beating out the seventh and eighth graders at their middle school in Epiphany, New York. What makes this team unique? Could it be Noah who became best man at a wedding when visiting his grandparents? Is it Nadia who in the turmoil of her parents’ divorce decided she could not let baby turtles die? Or is it Ethan who, breaking his own rules, comes to the aid of Julian? Maybe it is Julian, a new student who sees in each of the other three something valuable? And what about Mrs. Olinski, a paraplegic from an auto accident who is struggling with confidence about coming back to teach sixth grade again? Each student has a story to tell that contributes to the forming of the team and answers the question of “Who chose whom?” Did Mrs. Olinski choose the students or did the students choose her? This book is a delight for all who struggle with who they are and with what they can contribute.
Literary: This book is realistic fiction. The stories of each of the young people is told from a first person narrative and they are told in the voice of sixth graders who are trying to understand their world. There is some jump from present to the past to give context of how the young people got from entering sixth grade to the stage of the finals, but this is smooth and very easy to follow. In fact, it is very pleasant to read these stories. The inside flap of the book calls the stories “jewel-like” which is very apt. One can relate to each character and feels all the emotions that are presented here.
Race/Gender/Culture/Economics/Ability: This is the culture of a small city in New York State. It is middle school personified. Mrs. Olinski realizes at one point that not only has sixth grade changed, but sixth graders have changed. The issues of gender and race do not come into play much. The only time there is a hint of discrimination is with Julian who is clearly Indian (from the subcontinent) and who has attended boarding school in Britain before moving to Epiphany. His accent and mannerisms make him the target at the beginning of school for teasing and bullying. Ability is the issue that is most often broached. Many times Mrs. Olinski is asked how she chose her team as it is unusual for sixth graders to do so well. Each of the young people also have talents and abilities that contribute to the team but also make them unique. Not only that, each are taken seriously by some adults who see them as able to contribute to discussions and activities rather than being patronized.
Theological conversation starters: One conversation to have with this book is how God sees each one of us and how we can contribute to the Church. Each of the characters in this book is different and adds to the others. There is also the discussion of are bad people really bad and what can be done, if anything, to change them. By the end of the book, there is also the portrait of a friend who sticks closer than a brother with the team acting in sync with one another and also foregoing practice on a Saturday for their tea time (to understand this, one must read the book).
Faith Talk Questions:
- Do any of the four young people speak to you? Which one and why?
- What does “a friend who sticks closer than a brother” mean? How is this shown in the book?
- Julian is bullied for simply being different. What do you believe God wants us to do when we see something similar?
- Julian faces a difficult choice between humiliating someone who has humiliated him (without anyone knowing it was him) and allowing that person to possibly have some success. How would you react and what do you believe God would want you to do?
- Mrs. Olinski faces a crisis of confidence. How do the young people help her and how is this similar to what God calls us to do?
This review written by Union Presbyterian Seminary student Travis Milam
The View from Saturday by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.