Saturday, January 30, 2010

Kid Konnection - Review: The View from Saturday

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 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!


Molly said...

I don't know why you were hesitant to lead one of these groups; it sounds like you did a marvelous job!

I loved The Crazy, Mixed-Up Files....and have wanted to read more by this author. I think I will be on the look out for this one.

Great review - and great club meeting :)

Sandy Nawrot said...

I agree with Molly, it sounds like you did a wonderful job with the girls. I would have freaked out if I had had only one day to pull all that together! I find it very interesting to see what my daughter likes in a book and what she doesn't. I tend to be a bit Pollyanna, and like 90% of what I read. She does not. I guess it is good that she knows her mind!

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

I'm glad the meeting turned out well (despite Booking Daughter not enjoying the first pick!) ... sounds like you're off to a good start (I want a pretty reading journal!)

I've linked to my review of Michael Hall's MY HEART IS LIKE A ZOO, which is an *adorable* picture book which introduces emotions/feelings and has the best illustrations, all created from heart shapes.

Deborah said...

as someone who was on the Scholastic Bowl Team from 8th grade - 12th grade (i was even co-captain!) this book has always held a special place in my heart.

Unknown said...

We have this book sitting on my kids' bookshelf but haven't read it. Now, I'm anxious to check it out. Thanks for sharing your review and book club experience. Sounds like a lot of fun and a rewarding experience.

The Many Thoughts of a Reader said...

That sounds like something I would LOVE to have had at that age. I had Battle of the Books but that wasn't enoough. :)

Lisa said...

One of my boys read this in 5th grade so I read along with him (I'd read what he had read after he went to bed). We both really enjoyed it. I think it would be great fun to lead a group of kids this age in a book club; how great was it to help them "get it?"

Michelle said...

I loved this book as a kid. It was so great!

Carrie said...

What a cool idea for an after school bookclub! I love it!

Beth F said...

Yay! I knew you'd be great at this. And I'm so happy most of the girls really liked the book. Phew! Here's wishing you lots of success with the program.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

How funny about Booking Daughter! But I'm glad you had other positive reviewers in the group!

Michele said...

Love this feature, Julie! What a great way to add to my kid's shelves!

Anna said...

Sounds like you did a great job and had a wonderful time! I'd love to do something like this at my daughter's school, but my work schedule and commute would make it really hard.

I've never heard of this book, but it does sound interesting.

Oh, and The Girl participated in Kid Konnection today!

Diary of an Eccentric

bermudaonion said...

Those girls are so lucky to have you leading their book club! It sounds like so much fun!

Carin Siegfried said...

I added From the Mixed Up Files to my To Read list after reading about it in Shelf Discovery a few weeks ago - glad to read your review of your re-read! It stays high on my list for that Challenge.

Cindy Hudson said...

Wow, what a story. Sounds like you pulled it off really well, and I hope getting your next selection is a little easier.

I haven't read The View from Saturday, but it sounds interesting. I think it's always stressful when your own daughter doesn't care for the book. I'm like you in that I make my daughters finish book club books even if they don't like them, because they can at least talk about them.

I have also found that they usually appreciate the book more after hearing other girls talk about it.

Your school book club is a great service; good for you for taking on the challenge.