The View from Saturday
Konigsburg writes The View From Saturday in shifting points of view. The third person omniscient viewpoint is used to relate the thoughts and feelings of all the characters. The third person limited omniscient viewpoint focuses on, and is limited to, Mrs. Olinski's thoughts and feelings. Finally, Konigsburg uses the first person point of view to allow each protagonist to relate his or her thoughts and feelings as they tell their story.
The framework of the novel is the Academic Bowl competition and Mrs. Olinski's journey. Intertwined within this framework are the stories of the personal journeys of Noah, Nadia, Ethan, and Julian. The stories integrate the past with the present and fit together like a giant jigsaw puzzle. Konigsburg does not portray just one protagonist, but five — Mrs. Olinski, Noah, Nadia, Ethan, and Julian — all of whom unite to reach a common goal.
Noah is sent to Century Village, a retirement community in Florida, to stay with his grandparents, Nate and Sadie Gershom, while his parents go on a vacation. While Noah is visiting his grandparents, two other residents of Century Village, Margaret Draper and Izzy Diamondstein, decide to get married. Noah's grandparents volunteer to help with the wedding preparations: His grandmother will bake the cake and his grandfather will supply the music by playing his violin. Noah gets involved in the preparations when he offers to help another resident, Tillie Nachman, with the invitations. Tillie teaches Noah calligraphy and everything is going well until the cat spills the ink onto five invitations. To rectify the situation, Noah comes up with the idea that prizes will be awarded to the people who receive the invitations with the ink spills — but he doesn't know just yet what the prizes will be.
Noah also helps gather the groceries needed for the food that is being made for the reception and uses his wagon to transport flowers to the clubhouse. He is going to transport the wedding cake to the clubhouse as well, when Allen Diamondstein (Izzy's son and Nadia's father) slips on water and causes the cake to topple over. Allen, who is supposed to be his father's best man, must go to the emergency room (where he learns he has sprained his ankle). Noah offers to take his place and be the best man for the wedding.
At the reception, Noah must come up with prizes for the ink-stained invitations. He has no choice but "to give up things he loved." He only has four gifts, so he decides that the fifth gift is for one of the recipients to give his or her gift away to someone else. Soon, all of Noah's "gifts kept on giving." Noah discovers kindness in himself and in others.
Meanwhile, Nadia goes to Florida, with her dog Ginger, to visit her father, Allen Diamondstein, who is living in a "swinging-singles apartment complex." Nadia's parents recently divorced and Nadia moved to Epiphany, New York, with her mother. Nadia's relationship with her father is shaky, mainly because he doesn't know how to treat her. Allen hovers over Nadia, and she can't stand it. They spend time with her grandfather, Izzy Diamondstein, and his new wife, Margaret Draper. Izzy and Margaret walk the beach every morning and evening to rescue sea turtles and help them survive, and Allen and Nadia join them.
Nadia knows quite a bit about sea turtles because she wrote a paper about them for school. She resents the fact that her father asks Margaret questions about the sea turtles and not her. When Ethan, Mar-garet's grandson, shows up, Nadia feels more left out and refuses to walk the beach or visit her grandparents. Finally, Nadia and her father talk. Nadia is able to see that both she and her father have been going through difficult times and need to adjust to their new living arrangements (life without each other living under the same roof all the time). Nadia sees parallels between her life and the life of the sea turtles. She and her father agree to help and support each other and to "give each other a lift between switches."
Ethan Potter, Margaret Draper's grandson, lives on a farm in Epiphany with his parents. He goes to Florida to visit his grandmother at the same time Nadia is in Florida visiting her father and grandfather. Because Ethan and Nadia share grandparents now, they meet each other in Florida and spend time together.
On the first day of school, Ethan stakes out his seat on the school bus, wanting to have the seat to himself. But Julian Singh, a new student in school, chooses to sit next to him on the bus. Ethan tries to avoid conversation and eye contact with Julian, but Julian's kindness toward Ethan and everyone else influences Ethan. Ethan realizes that bullies from school intend to harass Julian, so he protects Julian from harm.
Julian Singh has just moved to Epiphany with his father. They bought the Sillington House and intend to open a Bed and Breakfast inn. Because Julian is new in Epiphany, and because he is different (he speaks with a British accent and is almost always polite and cheerful), he doesn't have any friends. Julian invites Noah, Nadia, and Ethan to the Sillington House for tea. The four friends call themselves "The Souls" and begin to meet at the Sillington House each Saturday at four o'clock for tea.
Julian's life at Epiphany is not easy. He is made fun of by mean students. Julian saves Nadia's dog, and the dog of his enemy's friend from a practical joke. He manages to find kindness in spite of the malice that he must endure.
The overall framework, the story that holds the stories of Noah, Nadia, Ethan, and Julian together, is Mrs. Olinski's story. Mrs. Olinski has returned to teaching after a ten-year absence. She is a paraplegic and is teaching her sixth grade class from a wheelchair. She endures discrimination and harassment from people who are ignorant about what it means to be physically handicapped.
Mrs. Olinski appoints Noah, Nadia, Ethan, and Julian to be on her Academic Bowl team. When she appoints them, she is unaware that they are The Souls. The team makes it all the way to the state finals and becomes champion. At the conclusion of her journey, Mrs. Olin-ski discovers kindness once again both within herself and within others. Konigsburg concludes the novel with an ambiguous question: Did The Souls choose to be on the Academic Bowl team, or did Mrs. Olin-ski choose them?