by E. L. Konigsburg
Overall: 3.5 out 5 stars
“When I won a Newbery Medal for [The View from Saturday], I was filled with joy. And that’s a fact. I knew that kids would love meeting one character and then two and three, and I also knew — because I had learned it from them — that they would think that fitting all the stories together was part of the adventure. I knew I had been right about the spirit of adventure shared by good readers. I owe children a good story.” – Konigsburg, from her Scholastic author page
The View from Saturday feels very much like it was written in the same era as Konigsburg’s other novels, especially From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Some of the things the characters said seemed kind of outdated and potentially problematic, like asking Julian Singh if he is a Native American or some of the adults’ gender roles. Also the language that the kids use felt a little stilted and idyllic, but in general a solid story and she weaves them together well, if not in a way that necessarily captured my imagination fully. I would probably have liked it a lot as a fourth-grader but seems like stories for 5th-6th graders generally have advanced somehow beyond this – more advanced, exciting plots. But still, a pretty solid story about how four kids’ lives intersect and they become an unbeatable academic bowl team, with the help of their teacher. It has the feel in the beginning of the movie Slumdog Millionaire, that the story will be how kids’ experiences magically are all represented in the questions in the final tournament, but it didn’t quite work out that dramatically which might contribute to my feeling of letdown. (FYI: this book is copyright 1996 so was written before Slumdog Millionaire, which came out in 2008.)
One final note: the teacher is paraplegic and there is some mild bullying of her by students, which was an interesting take on the bullying topic.