Black sheep, dark horses, underdogs. We like it when a rag-tag squad of these figurative animals rock it out, whatever “it” is that they love (team sports, civil rights issues, and improbable missions are all good bets). Today’s 212-word review discusses a delightful YA novel about four eclectic, very charming child champions. Plus, there’s trivia. Who doesn’t like trivia?
The View from Saturday, E. L. Konigsburg
This book for young folks tells a simple story that’s charmingly full of quirks. Each protagonist is introduced to us in just one chapter, and fades into the background during other portions, but Konigsburg packs so much detail into each backstory that the children feel like distinct, complete people. It’s also a tale of underdog triumph, which never hurts, and because it’s about Quiz Bowl, I learned a few actual facts along the way.
One interesting thing about this book is that it’s written with five third-person point of view characters: four middle schoolers and one adult. It’s obvious to the reader that the four children are all outcasts who find solace in each others’ friendship, but Konigsburg provides nuance by writing Mrs. Olinski as another outsider seeking acceptance. I appreciate that the book treats Mrs. Olinski as a point of view character, because I think it’s hard for kids to learn that their teachers are human beings. I’m not sure I ever did learn that as a child.
Aside from the faintest shade of “Magical Asian” in the treatment of Julian’s father – which I registered but decided to move on from, unflapped – this was a lovely story, a discrete victory. Quiet and strong, like a perfect cup of tea.