I have a well-honed love for children’s literature. Due to a rather hectic work schedule, my reading time has a tendency to be compressed into a tiny skillet of 37 minutes before bedtime. Reading a book marketed for kids, generally a compact piece of writing, always makes for a satisfying end to my day. Children’s novels have a way of reminding you of the absolute joy of youth and how those years greatly shaped your perspective on life. And, inevitably, they have me reaching for tissues and rampant nostalgia.
I’ve had a copy of The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg for many years now, but have never given myself a chance to read it. Having received it for a long-ago birthday, I regrettably shelved it a week later and promptly forgot about its existence.
But after returning home for Christmas, I was rifling through my bookshelves in a sad attempt to clean my room (still on the to-do list), and came across my pristine copy of E.L. Konigsburg’s masterpiece – the cover still a freshly pressed robin-egg-blue, four cups of lemon tea still pictured on the front, a shiny Newbery Medal medallion still prominently featured.
I flipped to the back cover and read the following:
“Their victory was so profound that the sixth-grade math teacher, Mrs. Sharkey, confided to the music teacher, Ms. Masolino, that for the first time in the history of Epiphany Middle School there was a chance-just a possibility, mind you-that a sixth-grade team might beat the seventh grade.”
The charm was immediate. The book screamed, I’m a piece of art. Choose me. Read me. Love me.
Always being one to listen to the pleas of inanimate objects, I dropped the book into my backpack for my flight back.
Am I ever glad I did.
The View from Saturday centers around five characters – a sixth-grade teacher and her four students (dubbed “The Souls”), who eventually go on to compete in the Academic Bowl, a state championship typically won by eighth-grade students. Konigsburg’s novel is doled out in flashbacks from the four students, their separate narratives interspersed with the team’s journey to the final championship round of the Academic Bowl.
Here’s a sketching of our characters:
- Mrs. Olinski: A sixth-grade teacher at Epiphany Middle School, still recovering emotionally from an automobile accident that left her widowed and in a wheelchair. She is responsible for selecting the four students for her team in the Academic Bowl.
- “The Souls” (who each narrate their own chapter)
- Noah Gershom (Noah Writes a B & B Letter): Intelligent, confident, and incredibly fond of calligraphy. A natural leader who ends up playing an important role at a wedding.
- Nadia Diamondstein (Nadia Tells of Turtle Love): Still reeling from her parent’s divorce and feeling a keen sense of abandonment. Also the red-headed owner of Ginger, a clever mixed-breed canine. (Bonus: Baby sea turtles figure into Nadia’s storyline in the best way possible.)
- Ethan Potter (Ethan Explains the B and B Inn): A lonely boy who dreams of working in a New York theatre and has a sense for a good joke. Often suffers relentless comparisons to his older brother.
- Julian Singh (Julian Narrates When Ginger Played Annie’s Sandy): A brand-new student at Epiphany whose parents have recently opened a bed and breakfast inn. Has a refined British accent and is often teased, but is always composed and tender-hearted. Also has the “chops” for magic.
Writing one character with a distinct voice is difficult enough. Writing five nuanced characters, and giving each ample time to develop a strong narrative, is more than a challenge – it’s Mount Everest without oxygen.
Konigsburg knocks it out of the park.
Each character is forced to undergo their own transformative process, to face the demons of their past and emerge stronger. The View from Saturday is extraordinary because it is not simply the tale of one character’s self-discovery – it is the intricate and seamlessly woven story of five individuals learning about the strengthening power of friendship.
It’s not the easiest story to read. While being marketed for children ages 8 and up, the complexity and layered texture of the story would probably be best grasped by students grades 6 and up. But for a keen young reader, this novel is more than worth the time and effort. A balanced puzzle of stories, Konigsburg has crafted a novel that begs to be read again and again and again.
And that’s no small feat.
It took me over seven years to finally get my act together, and read The View from Saturday. If you have yet to read Konigsburg’s novel, please do not make my youthful mistake. Learn from my tale of woe. Pick up a copy today – tomorrow! This week. And enjoy.
I promise – it’ll be worth your time.
This Recommended Read is brought to you by Monika Davies. Monika is a university graduate who studied the art of creative writing and heralds from a family of educators. She writes many of our Recommended Reads and hopes to one day teach creative writing. Despite having traveled to 16 different countries, she remains geographically challenged and still lacks the ability to make heads or tails of a map (much to her mother’s dismay).