The View from Saturday

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The View from SaturdayWhat the Book is About:

Every Saturday, bookish sixth graders Noah, Nadia, Ethan, and Julian meet at Julian’s house over tea and cake and talk and bond over puzzles and magic tricks. The children, who call themselves The Souls, each tell their own story of how they became friends and, eventually, their teacher’s hand-picked academic trivia bowl team. The View from Saturday is by the author of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and, like it, won the Newbery Medal. Its structural complexity may make it a challenging read for some children, but this is a heart-warming classic with a diverse cast of characters, realistic scenes of middle-school life, suspense (will the underdog Souls beat the eighth graders?), humor, and positive messages about kindness and inclusion.

Jewish Content and Values

  • Noah Gershom is Jewish and goes to visit his Grandma Sadie and Grandpa Nate in Century Village, West Palm Beach, Florida, where there is a large community of Jewish ex-New Yorkers.
  • Nadia Diamondstein’s father is Jewish, and her grandfather marries Margaret Draper, who is Protestant, under a chuppah (Jewish wedding canopy). A retired rabbi officiates at the ceremony, which includes breaking the glass. Nadia mentions her Bubbe Frieda, who died some time ago. Grandpa Izzy introduces Margaret to Jewish foods like babka and rugelach.  
  • There is a tikkun olam (healing the world) theme in a plotline involving the rescue of baby sea turtles when a storm threatens to sweep them out to sea.
  • A major theme of the book is kindness (gemilut hasidim). The Souls and their teacher each struggle with an aspect of their personal lives and they support each other. Through their friendship and teamwork, they also learn to accept and value themselves.

Positive Role Models

  • Noah steps in as best man at the last minute when Nadia’s father breaks his ankle, he keeps a mishap with the cake a secret so that the newlyweds-to-be don’t get upset, and he selflessly gives up his prized red wagon in order to solve a problem with the wedding invitations.
  • Ethan initially avoids Julian on the school bus because he dresses strangely, and Ethan does not want to become an outcast by association. However, when Ethan sees two other boys lying in wait to attack Julian, Ethan runs after him and whisks him away just in time. 
  • Nadia feels neglected when her father and grandfather seem to show more interest in the baby sea turtles and in Ethan than in her. She drops out of the daily turtle walks, but when a storm is due to strike, she decides to cancel a reconciliatory trip to Epcot with her father in order to help save the turtles.
  • Julian sees that one of the children has written “cripple” on the board with the deliberate aim of upsetting Mrs. Olinski, and he sneaks in to erase it before the teacher can see. He later realizes that one of the boys in his class is planning to play a terrible trick on Nadia’s dog so that his friend’s dog can take the lead role in the school play, and although he has the chance to take revenge, he chooses not to.
  • All four children help Mrs. Olinski go from feeling bitter, nervous, and lonely at the start of the book to feeling strong, brave, and loved.
  • Mrs. Olinski believes in the children and sees and understands their insecurities as well as their strengths. She is undecided about her choice of the fourth member of the Souls, but then realizes that, although the boy she is considering is smart and has leadership qualities, he also has a mean streak, so she rejects him even though he might have helped the team to win. 

Content Advisory

When explaining that a dog is female, the technically correct word, “bitch”, is used. The word “cripple” is used by a child who is trying to upset Mrs. Olinski.

Talk it Over

Julian realizes that Hamilton Knapp is planning to give Nadia’s dog, Ginger, laxatives in her treats so that his friend’s dog, Arnold, will have to take over the role of Sandy in the school’s production of Annie. Julian could get revenge by letting Arnold eat the treats but decides not to. What would you have done in Julian’s position? Why?

More for You

Nearly 80% of seniors in Palm Beach County, home of Century Village, where Noah’s and Nadia’s grandparents live, are Jewish. The county’s first synagogue, Temple Israel, was built in 1923 and there are now 50 synagogues there, ranging across the denominations. Century Village was founded in the 1960s by H. Irwin Levy, and there are now three Century Village complexes in Palm Beach County plus another one in Broward County. In recent decades, young families have been moving to the area, leading to the growth of JCCs and even preschools.

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