The View from Saturday

by E. L. Konigsburg
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Chapter 3 Summary

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Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1129

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.

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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.

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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 Michael Froelich, two known troublemakers, are seated in the back of the room, and they immediately proceed to give Mrs. Olinski grief. At lunchtime, Ethan, Nadia, and Noah sit together, while Julian Singh sits alone. When he is finished eating, Julian leaves the cafeteria. Mrs. Olinski follows him, probably to acquaint him with the rules of dismissal. Ethan, Nadia, and Noah accompany Mrs. Olinski, and when they get to the classroom they find Julian by the blackboard, holding an eraser. Someone has erased "PARAPLEGIC" and replaced it with the word "CRIPPLE." No one knows whether Julian was about to erase the offending description or if he has put it there himself.

The kids on the bus and at school quickly take it upon themselves to make Julian Singh miserable because of his differences. Ethan, who at first just stands by quietly, is impressed at his new classmate's stoic response. When Hamilton Knapp snatches Julian's book bag, Ethan finally tries to intervene but is unable to prevent the bully from defacing it. Julian retrieves the book bag. At home, he changes the insulting message Ham has scrawled on it with permanent marker into something positive instead.

On Saturdays, Ethan works at the Farmers' Market, selling pumpkins raised on his family's farm. Julian and his father come by and purchase some pumpkins, and on the ten-dollar bill Julian hands him in payment, Ethan finds a Post-it note, directing him to the chapter in the classic Alice's Adventures in Wonderland titled "A Mad Tea Party." In the succeeding days, Ethan gets more clues providing details on what is clearly an invitation. In the bus, Julian leaves a Post-it note on the strap of Ethan's backpack, giving him the time and the coordinates on a World Atlas. Julian also slips a small calendar page with a date circled into Ethan's pocket. For the first time in his life, Ethan finds that he is excited about going to a party.

The get-together, which is actually a tea, is at Sillington House on Saturday. When Ethan arrives, he finds that Nadia and Noah have also been invited. Nadia has brought one of Ginger's puppies for Julian as a gift, Noah gives him a calligraphy set, and Ethan has brought him a puzzle. On the wall of Sillington House's impressive living room, Ethan sees a poster of Julian's mother, Simonetta, who had been a chanteuse, or singer, on a cruise ship. Julian had attended a boarding school in England and had traveled with his parents in the summers, until this year, when his mother had died.

The children sit at a table, enjoying tea and pastries. The atmosphere is so placid that Ethan, who normally is quiet, finds himself sharing some jokes. After they have eaten, the four friends work amiably on Ethan's puzzle. Julian then shows the others some magic tricks, and the party breaks up when Mrs. Gershom arrives to pick up Noah. Ethan walks home slowly, savoring what he has just experienced: something special has happened at Sillington House, which has enabled him to "pull sounds out of [his] silence."

The Saturday teas at Sillington House become a regular event that all the children look forward to. Nadia gives the group a name—The Souls. One Saturday, The Souls discuss a day in each of their lives that they would want to live over again. Nadia says it would be the morning she, her father, grandparents, and Ethan rescued the turtle hatchlings from the northeaster. Noah recalls the day that he was the best man at the wedding of Izzy Diamondstein and Margaret Draper. Julian says that he would choose a time when he and his family were sailing back to England and his father's friend Gopal had taught him to play poker and do magic tricks. Gopal said that Julian had "chops," an elusive quality which, when coupled with something else equally indefinable, allows an individual to be a skilled artist.

Ethan has found that something about The Souls and their meetings at Sillington House gives him "permission to do things [he has] never done before." Without embarrassment, he tells his friends that the day he would like to live over is the day of their first tea party. Happily, he gets to do just that, every Saturday.

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