The View From Saturday portrays academic competition in the same exciting light as sports novels do football and baseball contests. The story is about a teacher and four sixth graders, underdogs all, who overcome challenges in their personal lives, school lives, and social lives to succeed in areas where they are only expected to be losers. Their triumphs are told in their own words, as well as in the words of third-person narrators, and the characters come alive in the telling as interesting and passionate human beings.
From gathering baby turtles on the beach to coping with a thieving monkey on a ship, The View from Saturday covers a wide range of experiences, all told in a brightly engaging way that conveys respect for young adult readers as intelligent individuals who want to be educated as they are taken on journeys that show how the human heart and spirit can surmount obstacles of prejudice and peer resentment.
(The entire section is 157 words.)
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Chapter 1 Summary
Mrs. Olinski is often asked how she chose the members of her sixth-grade Academic Team at Epiphany Middle School in upstate New York. She does not know the answer until Bowl Day is over and the work of the four children, who call themselves The Souls, is finished. The Souls accomplish the amazing feat of making it to the finals, even though they are in the youngest class competing. Noah Gershom is the first student chosen by Mrs. Olinski for the team.
Noah Writes a B & B Letter
During the summer before his sixth-grade year, while his parents are on a cruise, Noah is sent to stay with his paternal grandparents in Century Village, a retirement facility in Florida which is like "a theme park for old people." During Noah's visit, two of the facility's residents, Margaret Draper and Izzy Diamondstein, get married. Noah, by his own rather smug admission, is "a wonderful help" in making sure that the festivities go smoothly.
Noah learns calligraphy in order to help with the invitations. Things are going well in that particular aspect of the preparations until a cat belonging to Tillie Nachman, the woman in charge, walks through some spilled ink and leaves "cat's paws" on five of the cards. Tillie initially is upset because there are no extras, but Noah comes up with the brilliant idea of offering a surprise gift at the wedding to each of the recipients of the "cat's paw" invitations. He will figure out what the gifts will be later.
On the day of the wedding, Noah is "in great demand," delivering items to the venue in the new red wagon his Grandpa has bought for him. Unfortunately, during the transporting of the wedding cake, Allan Diamondstein, Izzy's son and best man, trips on the wagon handle, upsetting the cake and hurting his ankle. Allan, who is going through a divorce and is "the most nervous human being [Noah has] ever seen in [his] life," is taken to the hospital in an ambulance. Noah resourcefully helps to reassemble the cake and then volunteers to fill in as Izzy Diamondstein's best man. In his, and everyone else's estimation, he does "an excellent job" in this capacity.
Later, during the reception, Noah steps forward as promised to award prizes to those who have received invitations bearing the mark of the "cat's paw." The surprise gifts are all personal items that belong to Noah—a packet of Post-it notes, a calligraphy pen, the T-shirt which...
(The entire section is 735 words.)
Chapter 2 Summary
Mrs. Olinski notices that Nadia Diamondstein barely speaks during the first weeks of the new academic year at Epiphany Middle School. The pretty, red-haired student is a watcher, "cautious about showing [her]self." Finally, one day in mid-October, Nadia comes into the classroom and gifts her teacher with a radiant smile. Nadia repeats this greeting "every morning thereafter." Mrs. Olinski recognizes that Nadia Diamondstein is "a star."
Nadia Tells of Turtle Love
During the summer before her sixth-grade year, Nadia's parents go through a divorce, and Nadia must move with her mother from Florida to upstate New York. As a part of the divorce settlement, Nadia is required to spend a month of her summer vacation with her father back in their old neighborhood. As she has been given no say about any of these arrangements, the young girl is understandably bitter when she arrives at her father's apartment with her dog, Ginger. Nadia's father, Allan Diamondstein, is an extremely nervous individual who tends to "hover," making the entire situation singularly uncomfortable.
Nadia's Grandpa, Izzy Diamondstein, who lives nearby in Florida's Century Village, has just gotten married to a woman named Margaret Draper. Nadia has received a "full report" about the wedding from Noah Gershom, whose father, Dr. Gershom, is Nadia's mother's employer in New York. During Nadia's stay, Grandpa Izzy calls every day after her father leaves for work. Her grandfather invites her to visit Century Village, but Nadia declines. Finally, after a very unsatisfactory attempt to connect with her old friends in the neighborhood, Nadia agrees to visit her grandpa, whose new wife's grandson, Ethan Potter, has also arrived to stay for a while.
The beaches of Florida are inhabited by sea turtles. "Turtle patrols" guard the area from May through October to make sure that the turtles' nests are protected from danger. Margaret Draper Diamondstein is an avid environmentalist, and she and her new husband, Izzy, are "permitted volunteers...licensed to move a [turtle] nest or dig out a nest after the eggs [have] hatched." Grandpa Izzy asks Nadia if she would like to extend her visit so that she can see a turtle nest being dug out. Although Nadia would rather not, things are decided for her as usual, and before she knows it, everything is arranged.
Nadia's dad has tickets for
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Chapter 3 Summary
Margaret Draper was the principal for the school at which Mrs. Eva Marie Olinski first taught. During the summer after Margaret retired, Eva Marie was in an automobile accident that left her paralyzed from the waist down. Margaret Draper kept in touch with Mrs. Olinski during her recovery and afterward. When Mrs. Olinski finally returns to teaching ten years later, she discovers that Ethan Potter, Margaret's grandson, will be in her class. Mrs. Olinski finds that Ethan is intelligent, independent, and has a refreshingly positive attitude. When she chooses him for her Academic Team, she tells neither her friend Margaret nor anyone else.
Ethan Explains the B & B Inn
Ethan Potter lives in the shadow of his older brother, Luke, who is "always doing something wonderful and/or record setting." As a result, Ethan tends to keep to himself. The Potters, who are a well-established dynasty in Epiphany, plan for Ethan to inherit the family farm when he grows up because his brother is "scheduled for greater things." They do not know that Ethan has dreams of his own: he wants to go to New York City to design costumes and stage sets for the theater.
Ethan sits at the back of the school bus every year. By making himself inconspicuous, he usually manages to have the seat to himself. On the first day of sixth grade, however, he is joined by a new student, Julian Singh. Julian is of Indian descent, speaks with a British accent, and is impeccably polite. In addition, he wears shorts and knee socks, and carries a leather book bag. He is decidedly different and hopelessly uncool. Julian's father has bought the Sillington House, a local landmark which he plans to turn into a bed-and-breakfast inn. Despite himself, Ethan is curious about his new seatmate, but his desire to remain unnoticed by the general populace asserts itself. Although he is not exactly rude to Julian Singh, he makes it clear through his body language that he would prefer to be left alone.
In homeroom, Mrs. Olinski, who is confined to a wheelchair, introduces herself to her students. She explains that she is a "PARAPLEGIC," writing the word under her name on the board. As she speaks, Ethan surveys his classmates and sees Julian sitting in the row next to him. Nadia Diamondstein, whom Ethan had met during the summer, is in the same class too, as is Noah Gershom, the son of Ethan's family's dentist. Hamilton Knapp and...
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Chapter 4 Summary
Mrs. Olinski's sixth-grade class is the first since her accident; it is the first class she has had in ten years. Although she approaches it with seeming confidence, she is unsure of herself and a little apprehensive. When she returns to her classroom at lunch on the first day of school to find the word "CRIPPLE" on the board, she knows that a lot has changed since her last teaching experience.
At Sillington House on the Saturday after they had dubbed themselves The Souls, Julian announces that the group must have a project. Using the metaphor of a small ivory monkey that can balance on any of its four limbs, he communicates to his friends that he thinks they ought to help Mrs. Olinski "stand on her own two feet," so to speak. Together, the children resolve to "give her some support." The children realize that achieving success will be quite a "balancing act."
Julian Narrates When Ginger Played Annie's Sandy
Epiphany High School is putting on a rendition of the musical Annie during the holiday season, and Ethan suggests to Nadia that she should have Ginger audition for the role of Sandy. Led by Julian, The Souls join together to help Ginger learn her lines. Nadia thinks that Ginger is a genius and that she is sure to get the part. As expected, Ginger performs flawlessly and indeed does get the part, while Arnold, a Labrador retriever belonging to Hamilton Knapp's friend Michael Froelich, is chosen as her understudy.
The main performance of the play will be held on the Saturday evening before the winter recess. On that Friday, there will be a matinee performance, and everyone at Epiphany Middle School will be in attendance.
On the day of the performance, Julian overhears Ham Knapp talking with his friends on the bus. They are planning to put tranquilizers and laxatives in the doggie treats that will be given to Ginger during the play. She will thus be unable to execute her part, and Michael Froelich's Arnold will be used instead.
When the bus arrives at the high school, Julian enlists the aid of Ethan and Noah in a plan to foil Ham Knapp's plot. Julian makes his way backstage and is about to remove the tainted treats when he notices that it is Arnold who is preparing to perform instead of Ginger. Julian subsequently learns from Nadia that Arnold is being given the opportunity to play Sandy during the afternoon show; Ginger will return as...
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Chapter 5 Summary
The deadline for choosing the members of the year's Academic Teams is the Tuesday following the winter holiday. The other teachers have already announced their teams; only Mrs. Olinski has not made her decisions. What Mrs. Olinski has decided is that she will not hold tryouts for the positions, but will simply appoint the members instead.
Noah is the first student chosen by Mrs. Olinski to be on her team. She makes that determination while reading a paper he has written about the First Amendment. After choosing Noah, she immediately thinks of Nadia and Ethan. She observes the two closely over the next few weeks and becomes convinced that they are right for the job. It is the fourth member of the team that causes Mrs. Olinski the most trouble. She at first considers Hamilton Knapp because although he is inarguably naughty, he is smart and is also a leader. Every time she thinks about Ham, however, something tells her that her choice is wrong. Mrs. Olinski never considers adding Julian to the team. In her mind, he is "too far off the mainland...not a team player." In addition, she cannot shake the image of him on the first day of school, standing by the blackboard in front of the word "CRIPPLE."
On the day that Epiphany Middle School is invited to see the musical Annie, Mrs. Olinski receives a revelation. When an unidentified student creates such a disturbance by chanting, "Arf! Arf! Arf!" she knows that the perpetrator is from her class, and she is angry at the terribly mean spirit underlying the stunt. Although she has no proof, there is no doubt in Mrs. Olinski's mind that the disruption has been instigated by Hamilton Knapp. There is no way that she will now ask him to be the fourth member of her team.
Coincidentally, after the performance, Mrs. Olinski goes to Sillington House. There she is greeted by her friend, Margaret Draper Diamondstein. Ethan, who has ridden with Mrs. Olinski, steps forward to hug his grandmother. When Izzy Diamondstein comes up to be introduced, Nadia greets him and is enveloped in a hug as well. Watching the touching scene from her wheelchair, Mrs. Olinski is reminded of all that she has lost and is nearly overcome with rage and grief. At that moment, Mr. Singh appears behind her and, pushing her up to the front porch, soothingly announces that he has prepared a tea.
(The entire section is 562 words.)
Chapter 6 Summary
Noah, Nadia, Ethan, and Julian practice every day during activities hour, which is held at school between eleven-thirty and one o'clock. Mrs. Olinski drills them using stacks of note cards. She has three sets of questions, addressing all subjects and various levels of difficulty. The Souls beat the other sixth-grade teams soundly in their first face-off, and then go on to beat the seventh grade, almost doubling the older students' score. It is the first time that a sixth-grade team has ever defeated a seventh-grade team at Epiphany.
Excitement at the middle school grows as The Souls prepare to take on the eighth-grade team. In the students' eyes, the younger class metaphorically becomes David to the eighth grade's Goliath. The vanquished seventh graders, realizing that The Souls could potentially accomplish an upset that has never before been imagined, begin to take sides, deciding to root for the sixth graders. On the day before the "showdown," students from both levels line the hall between the cafeteria and the sixth-grade classroom, giving Mrs. Olinski and The Souls an ovation as they pass by on their way to practice. Buoyed by the acclaim, Mrs. Olinski responds assertively and effectively later that day when Ham Knapp pulls another one of his disruptive pranks.
During a social studies lesson, Ham Knapp and one of his followers belch loudly and rudely, creating a disturbance. Mrs. Olinski calls them up before the class and challenges them to explain to the rest of the students exactly how the crass act is done. Mrs. Olinski no longer doubts who wrote the word "CRIPPLE" so cruelly on the board on the first day of school or who started the ruckus during the performance of Annie. Shamed and embarrassed, the boys discover, to their surprise, that their peers are no longer amused and that their teacher is clearly in control. Having been put in their rightful places, the boys return to their seats, subdued. So quickly as to be almost unnoticed, Nadia thrusts her left leg into the aisle, and Noah sticks out his right leg, while Ethan and Julian raise their right and left arms, respectively, into the air. The brief, spontaneous motions are indeed quite "a balancing act," as The Souls share a tactful but triumphant signal of victory on behalf of Mrs. Olinski.
Mrs. Laurencin, the principal at Epiphany Middle School, calls a school assembly for the contest between the sixth- and eighth-grade...
(The entire section is 458 words.)
Chapter 7 Summary
As The Souls continue to prepare for the contest against Knightsbridge, Mrs. Olinski's pack of note cards grows. The children become so familiar with the questions that they can often provide the answers before she is finished reading them. As this will cost them a penalty if it happens during the actual match, The Souls must get out of that habit, which they do after only one warning from their teacher. Now that her team has experienced such success, Mrs. Olinski is asked frequently how she originally chose its members. Although she offers several good answers, pointing out their intelligence, their ability to work together, and their willingness to work, in truth, Mrs. Olinski still does not really understand the exact reasons behind her choices.
The day before the district championship meet, Mrs. Olinski is visited by the principal of Knightsbridge, who unkindly reveals that she has told her coach that she "could expect to be hung if she lets [Epiphany's] sixth grade grunges beat [them]." Mrs. Olinski responds, with all due respect, that Knightsbridge had better start stocking up on rope.
Mr. Homer Fairbain, the deputy superintendent in charge of instruction for the district, will be the master of ceremonies for the district playoffs. His superior, Dr. Roy Clayton Rohmer, is worried. Mr. Fairbain is a well-meaning but bumbling individual known for his inopportune comments and his gross inability to read difficult words correctly. This is particularly embarrassing to the district because Mr. Fairbain, in his lofty position, is in charge of most aspects of instruction in the schools. Dr. Rohmer is so concerned that he arranges to give Mr. Fairbain the questions to be asked in advance. Mr. Fairbain will then be able to practice reading them correctly.
On the day of the contest, the Knightsbridge cafetorium is filled to capacity. Mr. Fairbain conducts himself reasonably well until he slips up on a question concerning the tribe of Geronimo. Julian respectfully corrects him. The good-natured Mr. Fairbain accepts the correction affably, but makes matters worse when he comments that Julian looks like an Indian himself and asks what tribe he is from. The audience responds by gasping in shock at the deputy superintendent's faux pas. Dr. Rohmer is "pale[s] to the point of translucence."
The contest gets under way. Julian answers the question that puts Epiphany ahead of Knightsbridge, and Ethan brings...
(The entire section is 488 words.)
Chapter 8 Summary
After defeating Knightsbridge for the district championship, The Souls begin to drill for the regionals. Epiphany is in the Finger Lakes Region, which has never won a state championship. In contrast, the Hudson River Region, which includes their opponent, Maxwell Middle School, has won three times in the past four years. The week before the final competition, Mrs. Olinski arranges for a Saturday-afternoon study session. To her surprise, The Souls decline because they already have an engagement that day at Sillington House to meet for tea. With their explanation, The Souls extend an unspoken invitation to their teacher. Remembering that she has promised to one day treat herself to "another cup of slow tea," Mrs. Olinski decides that she, too, will go to Sillington House on Saturday afternoon.
When Mrs. Olinski arrives at the bed and breakfast, Mr. Singh meets her at the curb and pushes her to the porch and into the dining room. He tells her that they are glad she has come because "Sillington House is its own place," as she shall soon see. The Souls, who are standing at a table at the back of the room, welcome Mrs. Olinski, and Ethan pours her a cup of tea. As she sips it, she once again feels as if a weight is being lifted from her shoulders.
Other paying customers arrive, and The Souls excuse themselves to serve them. When the guests leave, the children go into the kitchen to help clean up, and Mr. Singh comes out to sit with Mrs. Olinski. Gravely, he tells her that The Souls had been getting worried because she had been about to choose someone else as the fourth member of her team, a choice that would have been "disastrous." Mrs. Olinski had never told anyone that she had considered choosing someone other than Julian. She wonders uneasily how Mr. Singh knows. Mr. Singh deepens her sense of discomfiture when he reveals that he is aware that the other student had been Hamilton Knapp. Again, Mrs. Olinski had never told anyone that she had almost chosen Ham. Mr. Singh senses Mrs. Olinski's unease and tells her that "later [she] will understand" what he is saying. For now, he just wants to thank her "for realizing that Julian [was] the necessary soul."
The Souls come back into the dining room, ready to practice. Mr. Singh gives Mrs. Olinski a pack of cards made by himself and the children. The questions address "languages and weights and measures," which are Mr. Singh's specialties, as well as two other topics,...
(The entire section is 544 words.)
Chapters 9-10 Summary
Because of The Souls' unprecedented achievement in making it to the regional championships as a sixth-grade team, Mrs. Olinski and the children are featured on the front page of the metro section of the local newspaper. In the rush of publicity which follows, Dr. Roy Clayton Rohmer, the district superintendent, arranges for a press conference with the famed anchorwoman Holly Blackwell and Channel Three Eyewitness News. While Ms. Blackwell is arranging The Souls onstage behind Dr. Rohmer, she makes an affected and condescending comment to Nadia about her red hair. Nadia snaps back with a cheeky but completely honest retort, causing the anchorwoman to turn her back on The Souls and direct the cameraman to focus almost exclusively on the superintendent. By the end of the press conference, Holly Blackwell has not addressed The Souls at all and has spoken to Mrs. Olinski only once, to ask her how she had picked her team. Mrs. Olinski's answer is left on the cutting room floor.
Swept up in the excitement, Epiphany Middle School's principal, Mrs. Laurencin, orders six big buses to take Epiphany supporters to root for the team in Albany. Dr. Rohmer protests, saying that taxpayer money will pay for Mrs. Olinski's and The Souls' expenses, as well as the principal's and his own, but not for buses to take "the entire town of Epiphany" all the way to the capital. Nadia's mother sends a taped copy of the press conference to Grandma Sadie and Grandpa Nate at Century Village. Bella Dubinsky, the resident artist there, designs a T-shirt to be sold by the Boosters in Epiphany to raise money for the trip. Five hundred T-shirts, which feature a picture of a noose, sell for ten dollars apiece, and the buses are secured.
Mrs. Olinski drives to Albany herself in her van, and she takes Julian and Mr. Singh with her. Along the way, Mr. Singh comments that Mrs. Olinski is a very good driver. Mrs. Olinski responds that it has taken more courage for her "to get back into the passenger's side of an automobile than...to learn to drive again." Mr. Singh observes sagely that "it often takes more courage to be a passenger than a driver," referring indirectly to Mrs. Olinski's situation in the years since her accident, and to the difficulty of relinquishing control over one's life to others. He points out that, through his experiences living on a cruise ship, his son Julian has learned "to be a passenger" and is able to appreciate all the things he...
(The entire section is 652 words.)
Chapters 11-12 Summary
On the ride home, Julian quickly falls asleep. Mrs. Olinski and Mr. Singh are quiet too. As she drives, Mrs. Olinski is surprised to find that she feels "a strange sense of loss." She expresses her feelings of inexplicable sadness to her passenger, and Mr. Singh affirms calmly that, in actuality, something really has been lost. He identifies it as the opportunity for "future victories." For months, Mrs. Olinski has been in a state of "perpetual preparation and excitement," with "each victory...a preparation for the next." Mr. Singh asks Mrs. Olinski if she has enjoyed the journey, and she realizes that she has. Now, she must appreciate the respite and prepare for what life will bring to her next.
After many long miles of companionable silence, Mrs. Olinski asks Mr. Singh how he believes she chose The Souls. Mr. Singh replies that each of The Souls have returned from a journey. Noah's journey, which had included the wedding of Izzy and Margaret Diamondstein, was to Century Village. Nadia's, which had involved turtles, was from their natural habitat, the Sargasso Sea. Ethan's journey, which had taken "a little longer than the other two," was actually the shortest in distance; it was his ride on the school bus, when he had resolved for himself how he would respond to his association with Julian Singh. Julian's journey had been the longest, beginning with his travels with his parents on the cruise ship, and ending with his discovery of The Souls. Each of the children have been able to find something on their journeys. Through their experiences, Noah, Nadia, Ethan, and Julian have "found kindness in others and learned how to look for it in themselves."
Mr. Singh explains to Mrs. Olinski that in order for one to be able to notice the absence of something, one must first know of its existence. Using his son's situation as an example, he points out that Julian and his family had "found much kindness when [they had] journeyed on the ship." An embodiment of that kindness is in Julian's memories of his mentor, Gopal. When Julian started school in Epiphany, he had encountered much malice, but the lessons of Gopal coupled with his own personal knowledge of kindness had enabled him to know how to respond. Because of their journeys, each of The Souls knows what it means to be kind, and they have extended that kindness to include Mrs. Olinski. Because the children have given her "a lift," Mrs. Olinski finds that she has...
(The entire section is 550 words.)