Home School Book Review, December 1, 2012 (view all comments by Home School Book Review)
Mrs. Eva Marie Olinski, a paraplegic who returns to teaching after several years following a serious accident, chooses four students from her sixth-grade class in the Epiphany, NY, middle school for the Academic Bowl team. Noah Gershom accidentally becomes best man at the wedding of Ethan’s grandmother and Nadia’s grandfather while visiting his grandparents in Florida. Nadia Diamondstein, in addition to being the granddaughter of the new wife of Ethan’s grandfather, has red hair, a dog named Ginger that’s a genius, and a fondness for baby turtles. Ethan Porter, in addition to being the grandson of the new husband of Nadia’s grandmother, is the quiet second son of one of Epiphany’s oldest families who stands up for Julian. And newcomer Julian Singh, who is originally from India and whose father has opened a bed and breakfast in Epiphany, starts it all off by inviting the others to a tea party.
How did Mrs. Olinski choose her team? She had a number of answers, but were any of them true? Yet, there is no doubt that these four students, with their own individual personalities, develop a special bond among themselves, calling themselves “The Souls,” and this attracts their teacher’s attention. Why did they make such a good team? And will they be able to win��"especially against seventh and eighth graders? In 1968 E. L. Konigsburg had won both the Newbery Medal for From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and an honor award for Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth. The View from Saturday won the Medal in 1997. The biggest complaint is that the book is boring, at least the first four rather long chapters where the author provides the setting for the action by describing the different backgrounds of the four students as well as Mrs. Olinski, and that therefore it can be somewhat confusing to read, especially with alternating the final quiz bowl championship match with the accounts about the different journeys which each kid has had to make. Some of the reason for this may be that Konigsburg started out with four separate short stories that she had written and then tied them together with a unified theme.
One teacher noted that his kids told him that the book started very slowly, mainly because they didn't see the looming connections between the characters, but once the connections become evident, thanks to Konigsburg's marvelous narrative, they thoroughly enjoyed reading the novel. He concluded that the story provides very positive statements about success, hard work, and civility, and I agree. There are a few things about it that I didn’t care for. One was a rather gratuitous reference to bra straps and what would be to most kids a somewhat titillating use of the word "puberty." Also, one student refers to another as “an ass,” which is a perfectly acceptable use of the word, but it’s said in such a way as to imply another, more vulgar, usage. And there is a reference to drinking wine. Aside from these, however, I enjoyed reading the book. It is certainly a different approach to story-telling, and I can see why some children would not care for it, but I can also see why others would really like it.
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crowyhead, March 27, 2007 (view all comments by crowyhead)
LOVED this! I picked it up because a) I love Konigsburg's From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankwiler, and b) because it concerns the members of an Academic Bowl team, and I spent most of middle school and all of highschool taking part in such nerdly pursuits.
Konigsburg deftly weaves together the stories of five characters: the Academic Bowl team members, Noah, Nadia, Julian, and Ethan, and their teacher/coach, Mrs. Olinski. There's no plot summary that can do the book justice, because the plot is just a very small element in the actual story, which is about bravery and friendship. The book's also wickedly funny -- Konigsburg, as usual, never missing an opportunity to poke fun at officious figures of authority.
A lot of the reviews on Amazon.com question whether this book actually speaks to the children that form its ostensible audience. It's a good question; it's really a very sophisticated book, and the four sixth-graders are most unusual and wise beyond their years. I don't think it would appeal to all children -- but I don't think the Newberry is really about choosing a book that will appeal to everyone. I think it will find its own dedicated audience who adore it in the same way many of us adored From the Mixed-Up Files. I definitely would have loved it when I was in sixth grade.
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Jenn, September 2, 2006 (view all comments by Jenn)
A beautifully written book, this was a Newberry Medal recipient. This is the story of four 6th grade students who form an academic quiz team. Their teacher is as misfit as they are, and the five of them become friends.
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Aladdin Publishing Company -
Four students, with their own individual stories, develop a special bond and attract the attention of their teacher, a paraplegic, who chooses them to represent their sixth-grade class in the Academic Bowl competition.
With frostbitten fingers, sleepless nights and sore muscles, 14-year-old Jackson Jones and his posse of cousins discover the lost art of winging it when they take over an orchard of 300 wild apple trees. After Jackson makes an unfair contract with his neighbor, Mrs. Nelson, the kids must learn about pruning, irrigation and pest control if they are to avoid losing $8,000.
With spot illustrations for mechanical-loving readersthe gears of a tractor, a plow with disksand with mathematical calculations of the great amount of money to be earned, this novel has the sort of can-do spirt and sense of earned independence not often found in today's fiction.
Did Mrs. Olinsky choose the four members of the sixth grade Academic Bowl Team, or did they choose her--and one another? Four stories-within-in-a-story, interspersed with the ongoing narrative of the team's triumphant march to the state championship, introduce each member of the team in his own her own voice, and bring the dynamics of the group into focus.
Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at Powells.com.