Newbery: The View from Saturday (Dewey's Review)

Cross-posted at my blog.

I read The View from Saturday for the Newbery Challenge. I'm enjoying reading the Newbery books for this challenge so much that I just might set myself a personal challenge to read every Newbery Medal winner.

In this novel for kids from about 8 to 12 years old, four sixth graders form a trivia team. Their coach is their social studies teacher, who has been away from teaching for ten years due to a car accident which left her confined to a wheelchair. The four sixth graders are connected in other ways, mostly through their grandparents. Their strengths complement each other, and this, combined with dedicated practice, helps them become an unbeatable team.

I found the dialogue, especially that of the kids, stilted and not a very good reflection of how kids this age actually speak. Nadia, the only girl on the team, doesn't use contractions at all. In theory, I think this sounds like a good way to portray Nadia as a serious, intelligent girl, but in practice, it makes her sound pompous. I'm pretty sure that in real life, Nadia would be mercilessly picked on by the other kids, who would imitate and mock her odd speech patterns. Instead, Julian (my favorite character) is picked on because he wears shorts with knee socks (which I do think is realistic). None of the four kids care about what their peers think of them, though; in fact, they don't seem interested in any social interaction with anyone but each other.

Other than some problems with dialogue, though, this was an enjoyable story, and I particularly liked the sections taking place in Florida, where three of the kids' grandparents live.

My favorite character, Julian, is Indian, and he has grown up on cruise ships, where his father has worked. At the time the novel takes place, though, Julian's father has bought a bed and breakfast in the town where the others live, and Julian becomes friends with them by inviting them to a tea party via coded messages.

As I suspected, Konigsburg herself was a teacher. Children's books that take place mostly in schools so often seem to be written by school librarians or teachers. And why not? Who else could even try to write realistic scenes taking place in a classroom? It's funny when Snape verbally abuses the kids at Hogwarts, but kids know that Snape couldn't get away with that in a real, non-magical school.

Konigsburg has a new book being published this year, The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World. I can't really say yet that I'm looking forward to reading it, but I am looking forward to seeing reviews about it that will help me decide whether to read it.


    as i posted last week (here), i had picked this one for my challenge list and thoroughly enjoyed it. in the past week my 11yo daughter has re-read it ("now that i'm older", she said), and she's been making a multitude of references to the book in family conversation (things like "your presence, but no presents"). :o)

    That's adorable, Alison.