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Four students, with their own individual stories, develop a special bond and attract the attention of their teacher, a paraplegic, who chooses them to represent their sixth-grade class in the Academic Bowl competition.
The plot is composed of interwoven puzzles. What prompts Mrs. Olinski to choose Noah, Nadia, Ethan, and Julian for the team over the usual overachievers and honor students in her class? What do they know about her, themselves, and each other that puts them so precisely on the same wavelength and gives them such complementary knowledge and experience? Each has a tale to tell, in the course of which all four witness acts of kindness and respect that teach them to find those feelings in themselves and others. In wry prose filled with vivid imagery, information, and often oblique clues, Konigsburg takes her team through bonding, drills, and a series of contests as suspenseful as any in sports fiction; the children and Mrs. Olinski's public triumph mirror inner epiphanies of rare depth and richness. The large cast, looping plot line, and embedded stories with different narrators require careful sorting, but the effort is eminently worthwhile, and Konigsburg kindly provides answers at the end.
Mrs. Eva Marie Olinski always gave good answers. Whenever she was asked how she had selected her team for the Academic Bowl, she chose one of several good answers. Most often she said that the four members of her team had skills that balanced one another. That was reasonable. Sometimes she said that she knew her team would practice. That was accurate. To the district superintendent of schools, she gave a bad answer, but she did that only once, only to him, and if that answer was not good, her reason for giving it was.
The fact was that Mrs. Olinski did not know how she had chosen her team, and the further fact was that she didn't know that she didn't know until she did know. Of course, that is true of most things you do not know up to and including the very last second before you do. And for Mrs. Olinski that was not until Bowl Day was over and so was the work of her four sixth graders.
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. Then after a while, teacher and team agreed that they were arguing chicken-or-egg.
Whichever way it began — chicken-or-egg, team-or-The Souls — it definitely ended with an egg. Definitely, an egg.
People still remark about how extraordinary it was to have four sixth graders make it to the finals. There had been a few seventh graders scattered among the other teams, but all the rest of the middle school regional champs were eighth graders. Epiphany had never before won even the local championship, and there they were, up on stage, ready to compete for the state trophy. All four members of Maxwell, the other team in the final round, were in the eighth grade. Both of the Maxwell boys' voices had deepened, and the girls displayed lacy bra straps inside their T-shirt necklines. The fact that the necklines were outsized and that the two pairs of straps matched — they were apricot-colored — made Mrs. Olinski believe that they were not making a fashion statement as much as they were saying something. To her four sixth graders puberty was something they could spell and define but had yet to experience.
Unlike football bowls, there had been no season tallies for the academic teams. There had been no best-of-five. Each contest had been an elimination round. There were winners, and there were losers. From the start, the rule was Lose one game, and you are out.
So it was on Bowl Day. At the start of the day, there had been eight regional champs. Now there were two — Epiphany and Maxwell.
It was afternoon by the time they got to the last round, and Mrs. Olinski sat shivering in a windowless room in a building big enough and official enough to have its own zip code. This was Albany, the capital of the state of New York. This was the last Saturday in May, and some robot — human or electronic — had checked the calendar instead of the weather report and had turned on the air-conditioning. Like everyone else in the audience, Mrs. Olinski wore a short-sleeved T-shirt with her team's logo across the front. Maxwell's were navy; Epiphany's were red and were as loud as things were permitted to get in that large, cold room. The audience had been asked not to whistle, cheer, stomp, hold up signs, wave banners, or even applaud. They were reminded that this Bowl was for brains, not brawn, and decorum — something between chapel and the order of the day.
Epiphany sat on one side of a long table; Maxwell, the other. At a lectern between them stood the commissioner of education of the state of New York. He smiled benevolently over the audience as he reached inside his inner breast pocket and withdrew a pair of reading glasses. With a flick of his wrist he opened them and put them on.
Mrs. Olinski hugged her upper arms and wondered if maybe it was nerves and not the quartering wind blowing from the ceiling vents that was causing her shivers. She watched with baited (and visible) breath as the commissioner placed his hand into a large clear glass bowl. His college class ring knocked bottom. (Had the room been two degrees colder, the glass would have shattered.) He withdrew a piece of paper, unfolded it, and read, "What is the meaning of the word calligraphy and from what language does it derive?"
A buzzer sounded.
Mrs. Olinski knew whose it was. She was sure of it. She leaned back and relaxed. She was not nervous. Excited, yes. Nervous, no.
The television lights glanced off Noah Gershom's glasses. He had been the first chosen.
About the Book
Mrs. Eva Marie Olinski is charged with appointing four students to represent her sixth-grade class in the Epiphany Middle School Academic Bowl competition. Though she doesn't have a clue as to why she chooses Noah, Ethan, Nadia, and Julian, she has a premonition that her decision is a good one. These four students, calling themselves "The Souls," surprise everyone by defeating the seventh and eighth graders and winning the school-wide competition. When they go on to win the state Academic Bowl Championship, Mrs. Olinski begins to realize what she didn't know in the beginning. Each of "The Souls" had been on a journey — a journey that interlocked their lives like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. What Noah, Ethan, Nadia, and Julian had learned along the way is the true meaning of friendship. What they discover when they find one another is that kindness and friendship make them a team.
The View from Saturday is about teamwork. Divide the class into three teams. Assign each team five questions taken from the fifteen questions at the end of the novel. Allot the teams one class period to find the answers to the questions. Tell them that they may use reference sources in the media center or search for answers on the Internet. Allow each team time to share their answers with the class. Then engage the class in a discussion about teamwork. How does a group become a team? What is the responsibility of each team member? Ask each group to explain how they organized their team.
Reaching Across the Curriculum: Activities and Research
Pretend that you are on the staff of The Epiphany Middle School newspaper. Write a feature article about "The Souls." Include an interview with each of "The Souls" and Mrs. Olinski.
Read From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg. How might Claudia and Jamie Kincaid be considered "Souls?" Write a letter that Claudia and Jamie might write to "The Souls" congratulating them on their victory.
Izzy Diamondstein and Margaret Draper are married in a Jewish ceremony. Research the meaning of the chupah, the bridal canopy, and other significant parts of the ceremony. Contrast their wedding ceremony with wedding ceremonies in other religions.
Margaret Draper and Izzy Diamondstein do volunteer work in their community. Margaret volunteers at the garden club, and Izzy at the public library. Find places in your city or community that use senior citizens as volunteers. Are there places or agencies that use the volunteer services of young teenagers? How does volunteering relate to teamwork? Why is teamwork essential for a strong and healthy community?
The sea turtles that Nadia and Ethan help save are a threatened species. Find out the difference between threatened and endangered. What animals that live in your area of the country have been placed on the threatened or endangered species list by the Environmental Protection Agency? What state and federal laws protect them? How are the laws enforced in your state?
Nadia gets an A on a report that she writes about the five kinds of sea turtles. Brainstorm the kind of information that Nadia might have included in her paper. Prepare a report on one of the following types of sea turtles: loggerheads, greens, leatherbacks, hawkbills, or Kemp's ridley.
Develop a list of behavioral characteristics that you would label mischief and those that you would label malice. Observe student behavior in your school for one week and chart behaviors in the two categories. Construct a graph that illustrates the occurrences of such behavior in your school. What can you deduct from your observation about student behavior in your school?
Have a victory tea party for "The Souls" at Sillington House. Prepare typical foods for high English tea. Write invitations to the party in calligraphy. Play background music that would be especially appealing to "The Souls." Select from among your belongings at home an appropriate item as a gift for each of "The Souls" and Mrs. Olinski. Be prepared to share why you chose each specific gift.
This guide was prepared by Pat Scales. She is the library media specialist at Greenville Middle School, Greenville, South Carolina, and she teaches children's literature at Furman University.
E. L. Konigsburg is the only author to have won the Newbery Medal and be runner-up in the same year. In 1968 From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler won the Newbery Medal and Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth was named Newbery Honor Book. Almost thirty years later she won the Newbery Medal once again for The View From Saturday. She has also written and illustrated three picture books: Samuel Todd's Book of Great Colors, Samuel Todd's Book of Great Inventions, and Amy Elizabeth Explores Bloomingdale's. In 2000 she wrote Silent to the Bone, which was named a New York Times Notable Book and an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, among many other honors.
After completing her degree at Carnegie Mellon University, Ms. Konigsburg did graduate work in organic chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh. For several years she taught science at a private girls' school. When the third of her three children started kindergarten, she began to write. She now lives on the beach in North Florida.
2. Mrs. Olinski and Dr. Rohmer have a discussion about diversity and multiculturalism. Explain what Dr. Rohmer means when he says, "Jews, half-Jews, and WASPs have nothing to do with diversity...The Indian does." What is the difference between diversity and multiculturalism? How is diversity important to a successful team? How might Mrs. Olinski's definition of diversity differ from Dr. Rohmer's definition? Discuss what is unique and diverse about each of "The Souls."
3. Nadia and her father help Grandpa Izzy and Margaret save the turtles. How do the turtles help Nadia? What does Nadia's father mean when he says, "And there will be times when you or I will need a lift between switches"? How do Mrs. Olinski and the other "Souls" feel "stranded" like the turtles? How do you know that each of "The Souls" needs a lift? How do their individual needs contribute to their success as a team?
4. "The Souls" seem to know a lot about teamwork long before becoming a team. Discuss how saving the turtles helps Nadia and Ethan learn about teamwork. What does Noah's role in the wedding of Izzy Diamondstein and Margaret Draper teach him about teamwork? How does Julian learn about being a team player on the cruise ship?
5. Margaret Draperretired from education because she couldn't deal with the drastic changes in the students. She says that students had stopped asking "Now what?" and began asking "So what?" Discuss the difference between these questions. Mrs. Olinski chooses Ethan, Margaret Draper's grandson, for the academic team when she realizes that he still asks the question "Now what?" How is asking "Now what?" an important quality for a member of an academic team? How might asking "So what?" be the demise of a team of any type?
6. There are times in life when one has to take risks in order to be successful. How do "The Souls" and Mrs. Olinski demonstrate their willingness to take risks? How does this contribute to their success as a team?
7. Each member of "The Souls" is resourceful and each, at some point, demonstrates courage. How does Noah's resourcefulness save the day at Izzy and Margaret's wedding? How does Julian's manner in handling the bully, Ham Knapp, reveal that he is both resourceful and courageous? How does being resourceful and courageous contribute to "The Souls" becoming a team?
8. Mrs. Olinski is a teacher who can tolerate mischief, but she cannot accept malice. Discuss the difference between mischief and malice. How is Ham Knapp guilty of malice? How can mischief and malice interfere with learning? Ham Knapp is very intelligent, but his behavior keeps him off the academic team. How does his behavior indicate that he isn't a team player?
Posted December 19, 2009
This is one of the best books I have read ALL YEAR!!!
This book has many layers. It is in the Elementary section and the main protagonists are 6th Graders, however, this is a complex book. I would recommend it for it's insight into each character and the spiritual character of the book. The book isn't religious but does have a special "feel" to it. However, if you are interested in action and adventure this is not the book for you!
This book "jumps" from one character to another and back and forth in time. Some people will find this confusing and frustrating. All of the characters are connected in multiple ways but it is up to the reader to figure out these ways and at times re-reading sections helps the reader to understand the connections.
I suspect that English teachers are going to add this book to the "classics list." I found this book very "deep and meaningful" and feel that both adults and children will want to read and re-read this book. I reminds me of Lois Lowry's writing.
12 out of 12 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 18, 2009
This is the only book I've read by E.L. Konigsburg and I thought it was horrible. I couldn't make up my mind at first if I wanted to read it or not because it didn't seem interesting, but when I did, I realized it was very boring and really confusing. I would NOT recommend this book to anyone.
7 out of 16 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 1, 2012
Posted July 23, 2011
Posted May 30, 2012
Posted February 21, 2011
I read this book for English class a long time ago and honestly... I didn't love it. The plot was very hard to follow and i had lots of trouble figuring out who's point of view was being used each chapter. I'm not going to say not try it, but i do not recommend for children under the age of 12. I might have enjoyed it just a little bit better if i had read when I was older. I have absolutely loved some of E.L Konigsburg's other novels, but The View from saturday just wasn't my thing. Now what i'm going to say is: Give it a try! You might like it!
5 out of 10 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 28, 2008
We had to listen to our teacher read this book in class when I was in sixth grade. All I could say was Boring! I had to put up my folder so she wouldn't see me asleep on my desk. I believe we had to take a test over it in the end and I'll tell you now I think straight up failed that thing. When she was reading the book I remember slob running down my mouth. That right there tells you I was deep asleep. I honestly tried to get into it but it was just to hard. The only thing I remember clearly was this debate thing and/or wedding invitation part. Sorry but unless you're quick to get addicted to sleeping pills I recommend this as the next best thing. I would NEVER tell someone to read this, even my worst enemie and that's saying something. This was the most boring book I've ever had to listen to. Literally! I don't see why a cup of tea with a slice of lemon in it (front cover) has anything to do with the book. But hey, I was sleep through like the hold thing so how in the world would I know?
4 out of 13 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 28, 2012
Posted August 3, 2012
Hard to understand at first but i read it a couple of times and started to understand. Speaking i am only 11. I would reccomend it to certain people.
2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 27, 2012
This book wa sad and un meaningful this stoy was hard to understand even though im only 11 this could have been better to understand. I did not injoy reading thi book it was hard and weird. I hope you do not go through the pain that i did for beaing forced to read this book. On top of that the book was horific!!!!!! -L
2 out of 8 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 27, 2012
Posted February 23, 2012
Posted September 29, 2013
When it comes to books, I can handle atrocious plotlines, choppy writing, and empty, unrelatable characters. But not all mixed together in one steaming pile of dog crap! This book has the choppiest, most disorganized writing you have ever seen, never uses contractions, and is split up into 4 stories: the epitome of book badness. But the worst part is the characters. They are cynical, unrelatable, snotty, bratty, stubborn, and rude. This is the worst book I think I have ever read.
1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 19, 2012
Posted June 9, 2012
Posted February 27, 2012
I have a great story about this book: When I was in grade school my class would venture to the public library to get books. On one of those trips, I found The View from Saturday (1996) by E. L. Konigsburg. I loved the cover, read the book, loved it as well. And promptly forgot about it for ten some odd years. Although I distinctly remembered the cover with a house and four cups of tea in the window, I could not for the life of me remember any other information about the book. I gave up all hope of ever finding it again.
Then, when I was shelving books in the children's room, what should I stumble upon but a copy of the very book I had been sure I would never see again?
Upon our reunion, I realized even with the book in hand I did not know a lot about it. The fact that The View from Saturday won the Newbery Award in 1997 completely escaped me (I might have read it before it won, definitely before I knew anything about the Newbery's). I also did not remember Mrs. Olinski being a paraplegic. And, perhaps most embarrassing, I did not realize that E. L. Konigsburg was a woman until I was reading about her online and discovered that in addition to winning the 1997 Newbery, Konigsburg also won the award in 1968 for From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler--the same year that Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth was selected as an honor book. That never happens with the Newbery. Anyway, I still look back on this book with fond memories even though recent examinations suggest that I might have missed some nuances on my first reading.
Mrs. Olinski has several good answers about how she chose the four sixth graders for her Academic Bowl team, partly because she always has good answers. But, truth be told, Mrs. Olinski is not entirely sure how she chose her team.
The fact was that Mrs. Olinski did not know how she had chosen her team, and the further fact was that she didn't know that she didn't know until she did know.
Another mystery is how these unlikely sixth graders became first friends calling themselves "The Souls" and, later, an Academic Bowl team by the same name that beat the seventh grade team, the eighth grade team, and so on right to the Bowl Day championship where The Souls from Epiphany would face off against the older Maxwell bowl team.
This story takes place on the day of that championship. As the teams compete, short stories are interspersed--one for each of The Souls--to explain how they answer each question and, also, how they became friends.
I feel safe in saying, without equivocation, that The View from Saturday is a classic in the realm of children's literature. The writing is delicate and complex much like a piece of lace held up to a light. At the same time, this story is a timeless one about friendship and journeys big and small. I read somewhere that the stories within this book were "jewel like" which I think is a good adjective to end this review with because, really, what more could I add?
1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 12, 2012
This book is way to confusing dont get it i read it in my class and nobody liked it to many things happening at once to many charcters and when you read it it has sentences like if you tell me the things that i dont know than you tell me things that i dont know so then we will both know everythin that there is to know just take it from me its not worth your time read anything but this book ANYTHING!!!
1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 27, 2011
I read this book for school a few years ago and I disliked it very much. There was really no story line, let alone suspensful or climactic parts. I might enjoy it more now that I'm slightly older, but I highly doubt it. This book could be summed up in one page and still be just as interesting and include the exact same events as the book its self. As I look back it had to have been one of the most--for lack of a better word--boring bookd I have ever read and not worth your money.
1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 18, 2011
Posted November 11, 2011