The View From Saturday
By E. L. Konigsburg
Atheneum Books, 1996
The View From Saturday is a children's novel, of the sort that would be classified as general literature if they bothered to classify children's literature that way. It follows a year in the life of four children, leading up to their victory in the sixth grade Academic Bowl.
The story technically starts out at the Academic Bowl state finals, but almost immediately goes back nearly a year to explain how the kids know the answers to the questions they are asked... somewhat in the style of Slumdog Millionaire. But most of the story is actually about how they all met -- and in some cases, became related. That summer, Nadia and Ethan's grandparents got married, although neither of them are actually present for the wedding -- Noah is, and accidently ends up as the best man. Nadia and Ethan do visit their grandparents later in the summer, and help save sea turtles together. But they all knew each other from fifth grade; the only newcomer is Julian, who was raised on a cruise ship, learning interesting skills from the entertainers. His father buys a local landmark to renovate as a bed and breakfast, and he ends up in the same sixth grade class as the others.
The story is sort of about fate (or luck) that causes these four to be selected for the Academic Bowl team for their class, or, perhaps, that caused them to be friends (eventually). It is also about their teacher, who had been paralyzed from the waist down in a car accident, and is only just returning to teaching. She is actually the one who chose the team, but she doesn't know why. And it is also about a group of kids, some of them rather odd, who all end up being friends despite an inauspicious beginning.
Overall, this is a surprisingly good story. It has strong hints of touchy-feely nonsense, fate, and koan-like morals, and even so, I liked it. The writing style is somewhat chaotic, both in overall story-line and in sentence structure, and some of the facts given in Academic Bowl are incorrect, but it still comes across as an intelligent and nerd-friendly book. More importantly, the characters are engaging and well-developed, and make even mundane events like school plays interesting. Given the high level of vocabulary and the twisty sentence structure, I would recommend this primarily for children who have just exited sixth grade, perhaps 12 and up.
The View From Saturday won the 1997 Newbery Medal for excellence in American children's literature.
Reading Level: 6.8