1997: The View From Saturday (Crazy Random Happenstance)

VERDICT: Trash

Laurinda’s Rating: 2.5/5

The View From Saturday, the 1997 Newbery Medal Winner, tells the inter-related stories of the four 6th-graders who comprise a trivia team. Noah’s story focuses on his role in helping to organize the wedding of two of his grandparent’s friends, including serving as best man after the original injures himself. Nadia talks about visiting her father in Florida and, after sulking for a while, helping her grandfather and his wife rescue newly hatched sea turtles. Ethan, whose grandmother married Nadia’s grandfather, tells of his daily experience riding the bus to school; there, he meets Julian, an Indian-American kid who recently moved into a local historical home. The four begin gathering for afternoon tea on Saturday, learning about one another and exploring a variety of activities. Julian is the final kid to narrate a chapter. He makes the choice to interfere in a potentially harmful prank, even though he might get caught.

Mrs. Olinski, the kid’s paraplegic sixth-grade teacher, is back teaching for the first time since her accident. She chooses the four students for the trivia contest without knowing that they’re already a team. With her expert coaching and their dedication, The Souls win the highest level of competition and help give Mrs. Olinski back a sense of belonging and purpose.

The Good: Seeing how all the individual stories tie together, which mostly occurs towards the end of the book, is quite interesting. Mrs. Olinski is fleshed out and not defined by her wheelchair use. Konigsburg delves into Olinski’s mental processes a bit, but also gives glimpses of daily tasks that are different for those who use wheelchairs.

The Bad: The individual stories are utterly random and the children who narrate less than enthralling. Nadia, in particular, is a whiny brat during her visit to her father. Even when the stories come together and make something more than their parts, they don’t add up to an interesting “whole”.

While this book was mildly entertaining, I don’t recommend it. Most of it was tedious and none of the good parts were awesome enough to overcome the majority of the writing. It’s not a terrible book; if found in earlier decades, it might even have counted as a decent one, but, against the increased readability and interest of the recent Newbery winners, The View from Saturday falls flat.

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