Saturday, February 27, 2010

Book Review: The View From Saturday [1996]

I'm pretty sure that it's been over twenty years since I read From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg, and I honestly can't remember that much about it other than a general feeling of approval. So when a friend recommended that I read Newbery Medal-Winning The View from Saturday, I was not averse to the suggestion.

The book focuses on four sixth-grade members of an Academic Bowl team, Noah, Nadia, Ethan, and Julian, and their paraplegic teacher, Mrs. Olinski. The narrative alternates between the children's first-person perspective (of past events) and that of Mrs. Olinski (in the present day, at the state finals). Utilizing a format similar to Q & A (the book that formed the basis of Slumdog Millionaire), in which questions at the competition lead to stories about each child's experiences, Konigsburg crafts a humorous and heartfelt tale. As the narrative threads circle around and twine with each other, we get a better and better picture of the group and how they became "The Souls," the adults with whom they interact, and the small New York town, Epiphany, that they call home. Unlike many of the books I've read recently, almost all of the characters are sympathetic (aside from some delightfully skewered school officials), even the ones who aren't as endearing when we first meet them. A delightful treat.

Grade: A-

Random Thoughts:

I chose to listen to in on audio CD rather than try to make the time to read it, and the narrators (one for each of the children, one for Mrs. Olinski) were of variable quality, so I would recommend the print version over the audio. It was also quite startling to hear Aasif Mandvi of Daily Show fame performing as Julian Singh.

I especially enjoyed the part at the end where we got to hear fifteen trivia questions and their answers.

I know that the Newbery medal is named after a real person, but that never stops me from wanting to put another "r" in it.

I want to have a group of people with whom I take tea every Saturday. Any takers?

Dead Mother: Y
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