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. Find it on Bookshop.
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?
Possible Pairings: Lucky Strikes by Louis Bayard, Sender Unknown by Sallie Lowenstein, The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt, Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli, Signed, Skye Harper by Carol Lynch Williams