Welcome to Kid Konnection -- a (hopefully) regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. Today, Booking Daughter and I are going to feature a book that we recently read for our after-school Book Club!
Summary: HOW HAD MRS. OLINSKI CHOSEN her sixth-grade Academic Bowl team? She had a number of answers. But were any of them true? How had she really chosen Noah and Nadia and Ethan and Julian? And why did they make such a good team?
It was a surprise to a lot of people when Mrs. Olinski's team won the sixth-grade Academic Bowl contest at Epiphany Middle School. It was an even bigger surprise when they beat the seventh grade and the eighth grade, too. And when they went on to even greater victories, everyone began to ask: How did it happen?
It happened at least partly because Noah had been the best man (quite by accident) at the wedding of Ethan's grandmother and Nadia's grandfather. It happened because Nadia discovered that she could not let a lot of baby turtles die. It happened when Ethan could not let Julian face disaster alone. And it happened because Julian valued something important in himself and saw in the other three something he also valued.
Mrs. Olinski, returning to teaching after having been injured in an automobile accident, found that her Academic Bowl team became her answer to finding confidence and success. What she did not know, at least at first, was that her team knew more than she did the answer to why they had been chosen. -- Aladdin
I was asked a few months ago if I would consider running an after-school book club for 4th and 5th grade girls. I was a little hesitant because while I love middle-grade books, I'm probably not the best facilitator for young girls. But I figured, what the heck? I have a passion for reading, and I might as well share that with a few young girls!
After a few budgeting mishaps and last minute organizing (not by me!), I ended up having one night to find ten copies of the same book. I also had to pick something relatively short because the girls were only going to have a little over a week to read the book. I know...it wasn't pretty! I am thrilled to say that I found copies of the Newbury Award-winning book THE VIEW FROM SATURDAY by E.L. Konigsburg. It was going to be a new read for me (as well as the girls), but I had heard so many wonderful things about this book that I just knew it would be perfect! I read it in a few hours and absolutely adored it!!!!
And then my world got rocked just a little -- my daughter (who just happens to be in the book club) started the book and told me that she just couldn't get into it and that she didn't like it. WHAT???? How could she not like this book? I loved this book (maybe even more than FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER which was one of my childhood favorites.) Needless to say, I made her finish it because she could still talk about what she didn't enjoy; but I was terrified that the other girls (the ones that actually were able to read the book in a week) would feel the same way.
So last Wednesday after school, I packed up a market basket filled with discussion questions and some goodies for the girls and headed to my daughter's elementary school. There were nine girls at the first meeting, and I think five had managed to finish the books (I was pleasantly surprised.) When I asked if they liked it, only two girls (my daughter and one girl who had only read the first section) said they didn't. Whew!!! The other girls seemed to like it (almost a much as I did!)
I thought THE VIEW FROM SATURDAY was a fantastic book. I loved the story and the characters, but this book really had so many things about it that were just so well done. The format of the story was perfect! The book was divided into some small chapters about the teacher and the academic bowl, and then there were long chapters which told the stories of each one of The Souls.I loved how the author first introduced an academic bowl question in a preceding chapter and then flashed back to tell the story of how each character knew the answer. I must say that it reminded me a great deal of Slumdog Millionaire in that way.
I also thought Ms. Konigsburg did an excellent job with the symbols in this story. In fact, I loved explaining to the girls what a symbol in a book is; and then I asked them if they thought there were any symbols in the book. Some were quicker than others to realize what I meant, but after some discussion, we talked about the symbolism of the turtles (represented both Nadia and Mrs. Olinksi) as well as Julian's little white monkey.
Another wonderful thing about this book was that it touched on so many themes that are timely for young kids today. We had a wonderful time discussing prejudice, bullying and mean kids; and we also used Julian as an example to show how to handle those issues. Some of the other topics we discussed were friendship (which was a huge theme), feeling like an outsider, supporting others, showing respect, and teamwork. We also talked about how kids (specifically 6th graders) are different and how they've changed throughout the years! I thought it was a magical discussion, and I really couldn't have been happier!
I did use a reading guide for parts of our discussion, but I found that we were actually okay without it! At the end of the meeting, we divided up in teams by grade and had our own little quiz bowl! There were some questions in the back of the book (which were actually part of the academic bowl in the book.) I played emcee and the girls had a great time slapping the table and trying to "ring in" first! Even the quiet girls were starting to come out of their shells by the end of the meeting!
During the meeting, I also handed out adorable little journals and pretty pens. I called them their book journals, and we brainstormed ways we could use them. Some of the ideas were to write down their thoughts about the book, questions they wanted to ask at the next meeting, a list of books that they read, and some new words that they learned. They also thought it might be a good idea to use it as a diary. Whatever they chose to do with the journals, I hope they enjoy them!
I absolutely treasured each and every page of THE VIEW FROM SATURDAY! I can't recommend it enough if you are looking for a wonderful middle-grade fiction book.
If you'd like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children's books, please leave a comments as well as a link below with your name/blog name and the title of the book! Feel free to grab the little button too!