The View From Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg

This is a book by the author of one of my favorites, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, a story in which a brother and sister run away from home and hide out in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.  It’s a great story and since I’m always threatening to move to the British Museum in London, I totally understand the premise!  If you haven’t read that one yet, be sure and check it out.

The View From Saturday should have been just as captivating for me because it’s about a group of 6th graders (I teach 6th grade!) who bond together and form an academic decathlon team (I love trivia! I love quiz shows! I love Jeopardy!) under the guidance of their teacher, Mrs. Olinski.  It turns out that three of these children are already entangled in each others’ lives– Nadia’s grandfather married Ethan’s grandmother, and by a strange twist of fate, Noah ended up being the best man at the wedding.  Julian is the new boy, who is unlike anyone they have ever met, and he has a hard time adjusting to life at his new school.  Eventually they all become a solid group of friends and Mrs. Olinski picks them to be a part of her team.  Mrs. Olinski also has a connection to these kids, as Ethan’s grandmother was her principal at a prior school.

The good: the children are all awesome, quirky characters.  They each have a distinct way of speaking which helps to bring them to life.  They overcome challenges together, solve puzzles, and work well as a team.  I wanted to hear more from the children themselves.

The bad: for me, this book was arranged in an order that I found confusing.  The book is only 160 pages.  It shouldn’t be so hard to read!  The time-order jumps all around and the point of view changes in between chapters.  It was hard to keep track of who was narrating.    Grownups, if you’ve ever seen the movie “Slumdog Millionaire” this book is similar, where each student is asked a question in the Academic Bowl and then the story goes back in time to explain how he or she knew that answer.  It felt inconsistent to me though, and it caused problems with the flow of the story.  It took me a few days to read this book and I had to flip backwards several times to reacquaint myself with who was narrating and what they were talking about.  I loved the IDEA of this book, just not the format.  On the author page at the end of the book, she explains how this was based on several short stories she had already written.  Ah ha, that explains a lot!

This book is a Newberry Award winner from 1997, with an AR level of 5.9 and is worth 7 points.  I’m not sure if I recommend this book or not.  The individual stories are interesting, but as a book it fell flat for me.  Okay, I’ve got it: read this book if you are a writer and are interested in how dialogue reveals characterization.  That was my favorite take-away from this book.

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