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The View from Saturday

by E. L. Konigsburg

The Book Club Novel Guide outlines a complete theme-based unit with Book Club lesson plans focusing on The View from Saturday.

Buy the Novel Buy the Book Club Novel Guide

Below you will find a synopsis, further reading materials, discussion topics, and reviews that you might find useful during your teaching of The View from Saturday. We've also maintained the lessons on which we based an online discussion of the book in the 1990s. These lessons have some overlap with the Book Club Novel Guide but are not identical.

A Synopsis

Sixth-grade teacher Mrs. Eva Marie Olinski became a paraplegic in an auto accident ten years ago, and this is her first year back teaching at Epiphany Middle School. As the novel opens, she sits in the audience of an academic bowl watching the members of her team, The Souls, compete for the New York state championship. The stories of the four Souls—Noah, Nadia, Ethan, and Julian—are told through a series of flashbacks. The life experiences of each character play a role in the outcome of the championship. Through her mentorship of the team, Mrs. Olinski gains self-confidence and learns how to overcome the challenges of her disability.

Noah Gershom is a terrific organizer of events. While spending the summer with his grandparents at a retirement village in Florida, Noah not only learns the art of calligraphy but also fills in as best man at the wedding of Nadia’s grandfather and Ethan’s grandmother.

As part of the divorce agreement between her parents, Nadia Diamondstein divides her time between her mother in Epiphany, New York, and her father in Florida. During a summer visit in Florida, Nadia comes to a new understanding of her father and also learns about herself as she helps rescue baby sea turtles during a terrible storm.

A quiet but very observant boy, Ethan lives in the shadow of his older, talented brother. Ethan’s family is one of the oldest in Epiphany, and Ethan knows the history of his ancestors and the community. Ethan befriends a new arrival in the community, an Indian boy named Julian Singh.

Julian’s father is turning a local mansion into a bed and breakfast inn. Julian sends a cryptic invitation to Noah, Nadia, and Ethan, asking them to join him for tea. The foursome become fast friends. They dub themselves The Souls and turn to one another in the face of bullying classmates. Along the way, The Souls and Mrs. Olinski learn important lessons about friendship, change, family, and hard work.


The View from Saturday is an excellent book for the teaching of themes. An explicit theme is the meaning of friendship. More implicit is the effect of personal experiences on one's life, as each character has his or her own story to tell. The Souls demonstrate respect for one another as well as cooperation; each character is an individual, but without cooperation their success would not have occurred. As these themes may be difficult for students to identify, it may be helpful to integrate them into class discussions throughout the unit.

Further Reading and Links

The following books and sites can be used to support and enrich the Book Club unit for The View from Saturday by E. L. Konigsburg.

Special Classroom Library

  • From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konisgburg
  • Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth by E. L. Konisgburg
  • Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
  • The Friends by Kuzumi Yumoto
  • A Taste of Blackberries by Doris B. Smith
  • Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

About the Author and the Novel

See the Setting of the Novel

  • The Finger Lakes — A map and information about the legendary formation of the Finger Lakes as well as details of individual lakes are offered on this site.
  • Sargasso Sea — The National Ocean Service, a part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, provides this article that briefly describes the important features of the Sargasso Sea. The site also includes information about the marine species that live in the Sargasso Sea.

Find Out More about the Activities and Interests of the Characters

  • Calligraphy — This site gives information on the history of calligraphy and examples of various styles of writing. It also explains on how to get started.
  • Loggerhead Turtles — Visitors to this site learn about many aspects of the loggerhead turtle, including their status, habitat, diet, reproduction, and the various threats to their continued existence. The information is based on documents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service.
  • Turtle Time — Facts about sea turtles and sea turtle patrols are given on this site, sponsored by the official state of Florida monitoring organization.
  • Sea Turtle Conservation — Ways that private citizens can help protect the sea turtle are outlined here. Also on this site Sea Turtle Nesting Sites Around the World. At a glance, visitors can see the most popular nesting places of the loggerhead turtle around the world.
  • Jewish Recipes — Visitors can locate recipes ranging from babka to ruggelach in this index, which provides musical accompaniment to cook by.
  • Mixed Breeds — This is a friendly and informal site that provides some information about the characteristics of mixed breed dogs along with photographs.
  • Women's Rights — This account of landmark events in the women's rights movement from 1848–1998 is broken up by direct quotations and explanations.
  • Upstate New York and the Women's Rights Movement — Text and images from historical documents trace the history and the significant figures of the movement.
  • Women's Rights — Read biographies, view videos, and examine documents and artifacts associated with the women's rights movement.
  • Lewis Carroll — This home page has an array of options for studying Lewis Carroll. Scholarly in nature, the offerings include biographies, criticisms of Carroll's works, and explorations of the Victorian context in which he lived and wrote.
  • Reflections from Joyce Carol Oates — Well-known author Joyce Carol Oates comments on her childhood experience with Alice in Wonderland and its effect on her view of life.

Big Theme Questions

How can change in a person's life be both positive and negative? What are some ways to deal positively with change?

What makes a good friend? How can friendship change a person's life?

How can diversity create a stronger community?

How can a person make good choices without knowing all the consequences in advance?

Archived Lessons

Archived lessons for The View From Saturday appear below. For a complete theme-based unit that also includes blackline masters to support students' written responses and discussions, see the Book Club Novel Guide.

Lesson 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10

Literary Elements: Story Structure: Point of View; Flashbacks
Comprehension: Characters

GOAL: To provide students with a model of fluent reading; to introduce students to multiple points of view; to introduce the plot pattern of the story (flashbacks); to focus students on the primary setting of the story; to review the concept of character and ways to learn about character; to construct a character map

ASSIGNED READING: Chapter 1 & "Noah Writes a B&B Letter"

DISCUSSION TOPICS & QUESTIONS: Do you agree with the narrator's statement that "you do not know up to and including the very last second before you do?" Why or why not? Why do you think the author named the school Epiphany? What prediction can you make about the story based on the name of the school? What parts of the assigned reading made you laugh? Why? What effects are created by the use of flashback in "Noah Writes a B&B Letter"?

The way this story is written is unique in both plot pattern and point of view. For this reason it is important to spend enough time preparing the students before they begin reading. Begin by reading aloud while students follow along to model fluent reading and to get them started with the book. Alternatively, play an audio tape of the story.

Point of View: This story is told from many points of view. The beginning of each of the first four chapters is from a third-person limited point of view, told by the author through the eyes of Mrs. Olinski. Chapters 5–12 also conclude in this manner. The bulk of Chapters 1–4 is told from the first-person point of view, with each of the four "Souls" telling his or her story. Review with students both first- and third-person points of view. Pose to students the question of why the author may have written the story in this manner. What might they know more about because the story is told from multiple perspectives than if it had been told through the eyes of only one person?

Plot Structure: The sequence is out of order. The story actually takes place in the course of one May afternoon at the academic bowl finals. This may initially cause confusion for students, but if monitored this should be minimal.

Note to students the change in text layout as the setting changes from the present to the past (flashbacks). When the narration takes place in the present, during the academic bowl, the text is indented.

The author uses certain expressions (words and phrases) in her writing to convey meaning and to reveal characters. As Noah tells his story, he is staying in Century Village, a retirement community in Florida. For Noah, the "real world" represents anywhere but Century Village. He also speaks of what some Century Village residents did in their "former lives." The concept of "former life" represents what they did before retirement. Another expression that may or may not be familiar is "your presence but no presents." This expression means: Please come, but don't bring presents.

Noah's grandmother often says, "Sha! A shanda far die kinder," meaning, "Hush up! It's a shame for the children." You might ask students to share sayings from their own cultural backgrounds.

The text also makes reference to certain Jewish traditions. As Noah speaks of the wedding, he talks of the "smashing of the glass," the saying "Mazel tov" (an expression of congratulations and good wishes), and the hora (a traditional Israeli round dance). Students may share specific wedding traditions with which they are familiar.

Review with the students the concept of round and flat characters.

Round Characters: Characters we get to know well. Round characters have a variety of traits that make them believable.

Flat Characters: Essential to the action, but not fully developed. Their function might be to show how the central character behaves or relates to others. Flat characters help make the setting believable. There are varying degrees of flat characters. For some, we will just hear their names. Others we will learn a bit more about.

Two types of flat characters often seen in narratives are stereotypes and foil characters. A stereotype character represents few and common traits, while a foil highlights the characteristics of a main character by having contrasting characteristics. Examples of stereotypes in this story might be Nadia's or Noah's mom. Examples of foil characters could be Ham Knapp, Michael Froelich, and Jared Lord.

With students, focus on the fact that there are many flat characters in this story. Ask them to think about which are the most important to know.

Review with students how to find out about characters:

  1. By actions — How a character acts tells a lot about him or her.
  2. By speech or thoughts — Listen not only to what a character says, but also to the way he or she says it.
  3. By appearance — The description of how a character looks will often tell about a character.
  4. By other characters' comments — What do other characters (either flat or round) say about this character?
  5. By the author's comments — When a story is written from the third-person point of view, the author will often shed light on a character by commenting directly about him or her.

During community share, talk about superstition i.e. maimed/wounded bride and groom on the top layer of the wedding cake. Why didn't Noah tell Izzy about this? What is the significance? Also Noah wrote: "a B&B letter is giving just a few drops back to the bottle." What does he mean by this? Another subject to consider both Noah's mother and Tillie (at Century Village) speak of the "decline in Western Civilization." What do you think this means?

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Literary Elements: Point of View

GOAL: To analyze two points of view by which a single character is described

ASSIGNED READING: Chapter 2 & the first part of "Nadia Tells of Turtle Love"

DISCUSSION TOPICS & QUESTIONS: Find an allusion from this assigned reading and explain it. How does it relate to what is happening in the story? Did you encounter any unique similes and metaphors in the reading? If so, write about them. Think about Nadia and her relationship with the people in her life: her father, Ethan, her dog Ginger, her grandfather, and Margaret. Describe how a relationship in your own life is similar to one of Nadia's.

By now students should realize that they have seen three points of view. First is the author's through the eyes of Mrs. Olinski (third-person limited). Noah told his story from the first-person point of view, and now Nadia is telling her story.

Both Nadia and Noah have given a somewhat detailed description of Alan Diamondstein (Nadia's father). Students should understand that it is important to consider point of view to better understand characters in the story.

Vocabulary/Context Clues: Nadia compares ruggelach and babka to Entenmann's and Oreos. Students can use these context clues to figure out that they are probably some kind of sweet roll or cookies.

Possible thought for discussion in community share, Nadia says, "Many friendships are made and maintained for purely geographical reasons." In what context does she say this? Do you agree with her? Why or why not?

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Comprehension: Build Background; Characters

GOAL: To build or review background knowledge on turtles; to review the concept of characters and character development; to construct a character map of Nadia Diamondstein

ASSIGNED READING: Second part of "Nadia Tells of Turtle Love"

DISCUSSION TOPICS & QUESTIONS: Nadia has compared her life to a turtle's life and talked about herself as a hybrid. What does she mean by these descriptions? Respond to the story in a personal way. How is the story making you think about yourself, your friends, and your personal growth?

Background Knowledge: Prior to today's reading would be a good time to introduce or review background on sea turtles focusing on migration patterns off the Atlantic Coast. (See suggested links to web resources above.) Think about: What species? Life cycles? Hatching of young? Difficulties?

Characters: Take as many opportunities to discuss the concept of characters with students as possible. This will enable them to think more deeply about the novels they are reading.

During community share consider the following, Nadia said, "Inside of me there was a lot of best friendship that no one but Ginger was using." In what context did she say it? What does she mean? What does this tell you about Nadia? Also think about what Nadia's father said, "And there will be times that you or I will need a lift between switches." In what context was this said? What is meant by this? Could you put yourself in this situation?

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Comprehension: Compare and Contrast

GOAL: To compare and contrast two characters in a book focusing on personal traits, those qualities that distinguish a person's nature

ASSIGNED READING: Chapter 3 & the first part of "Ethan Explains the B and B Inn"

DISCUSSION TOPICS & QUESTIONS: There are many events in this section that you might have experienced yourself. Explain how this story reflects experiences in your own life. The author used the term B&B earlier in this book with one meaning. In this section she uses the term B and B to mean something else. What are the two meanings? How do they fit into the story? Why might she have used this term with two different meanings?

Review with students the concept of comparing and contrasting. Comparing is showing how two things are alike. Contrasting is showing how two things are different. It is important for students to understand that comparing and contrasting will give them a deeper understanding of the characters that they are reading about.

This would be a good time to bring up the advantage of so many points of view. We learn a lot about Ethan from Nadia as well as from Ethan's own story. And we are introduced to the character of Julian by Ethan.

Remind students that there are a number of ways to learn things about a character. To get a good comparison, it is important to focus on how the character thinks, feels, and acts.

Often students don't realize that what they are reading is causing them to form an opinion about the characters that they read about. It is important for them to think specifically about what is causing them to think that way so that they can support their opinions with evidence from the text.

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Comprehension: Interpretation

GOAL: To have students think about and define unfamiliar expressions and analyze them in relation to the story and their own thinking

ASSIGNED READING: Second part of "Ethan Explains the B and B Inn"

DISCUSSION TOPICS & QUESTIONS: In this section, the group chooses The Souls as its name. What does it mean? Why is it significant? Near the end of this section, the four friends talk about "the day I wish I could live over again." What day do you wish you could live over again? Why? What does Nadia mean when she says, "Noah, you may be smart beyond your years, but you are not wise"? Why do you think this? How do The Souls interact at school (especially Ethan and Julian)? What do you think about it? Why do you think they act this way? What would you do if you were in their place? Why?

Explain to students that often people will say something that requires one to think about what they mean. This is called interpretation. To interpret is to understand another's words or bring out the meaning that you think the speaker intended.

To help students understand the concept of interpretation, explain to them that it is helpful to think of the context in which a line of dialogue was spoken — what was happening at the time that it was said.

During community share discuss why Nadia chose such a name as "The Souls"? What does it mean? Why is it significant? Also Nadia says, "Noah, you may be smart beyond your years, but you are not wise"? What does she mean? Last but not least, consider how The Souls interact at school (especially Ethan and Julian)? What do you think about it? Why do you think they act this way? What would you do if you were in their place? Why?

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Comprehension: Character Development and Summarizing/Analyzing

GOAL: For students to recognize additional character traits or changes that are occurring with the characters as they continue to read; to describe a particular situation/conflict in the story and then analyze that scene

ASSIGNED READING: Chapter 4 & "Julian Narrates When Ginger Played Annie's Sandy"

DISCUSSION TOPICS & QUESTIONS: At the beginning of Chapter 4, you revisit a scene described earlier in the book. Whose point of view is used here? Whose point of view did you encounter earlier? Why did the author choose to present this scene twice? A symbol is an object that stands for something besides itself. What does the ivory monkey symbolize? Explain your answer.

Ask students to think about all the points of view about Noah, Nadia, Ethan, and Julian that they have heard. It might be helpful to make a graphic organizer on the board and write down what they are saying.

Remind students that it is important to keep thinking about what they have learned about various characters as they continue to read a story.

At the start of Chapter 4, students will read about a scene that they have heard about already. First it was told through Ethan's point of view; now it is described through Mrs. Olinski's point of view. Tell students to mentally compare/contrast the two points of view. What does one tell them that the other does not?

This might be a good time to talk about the story structure (flashbacks). This could be causing confusion because students are trying to figure out exactly when the scene happened. It might be helpful to suggest that students think about where the scene is taking place. That is the most important thing.

To help put this scene in perspective, ask them to think about a time when something very funny or embarrassing happened to them. Ask a couple of students to share their stories. If they don't mention it, ask them where their situation took place (because that is important for picturing their situation). Then ask them specific questions about exactly when it happened, what happened before and what happened after it. It is likely that they won't remember, and at that point tell them that they probably forgot because it is not important. The same thing holds true for stories told in flashback.

Review with students that a summary is a brief retelling of a story/scene that includes all the main points.

Introduce/review (depending on your students' knowledge) that a "scene" includes actions, thought, and dialogue. In writing/telling a summary it is important to include information from all three sources.

Ask students what information is important to include in a summary of a scene: Briefly, what caused the conflict to begin? What events or conflicts followed? How did it conclude?

Here are some possible thoughts for discussion in community share: Does Mrs. Olinski think that Julian erased "paraplegic" and wrote "cripple"? Support your response. Also think about how Julian suggests that The Souls work on a "project." He believes that they can help Mrs. Olinski. Who tries to keep Mrs. Olinski "off balance" (and what does that mean)? How will they try to help her? A last point to mention in community share is before Julian ran backstage he pressed a Year-of-the-Souls penny into Noah's hand, and then Noah slipped one into Ethan's hand. What did this mean?

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Response to Literature: Personal Response

GOAL: To explore students' personal reactions to situations in the story


DISCUSSION TOPICS & QUESTIONS: Why doesn't Mrs. Olinski hold contests to select her academic team like the other teachers? Does her decision take courage? Explain. Why does Mrs. Olinski think that having tea is a good thing? Do you agree with her? Explain the "balancing act" that The Souls do after Mrs. Olinski silences Ham and Jared.

Acronyms: A word formed from the initial letters or groups of letters of words in a set phrase. For example, RADAR is an acronym for "RAdio Detection And Ranging." Ask students if they know of any other acronyms. Examples include:

  • NATO: North Atlantic Treaty Organization
  • SONAR: Sound Navigation and Ranging
  • NASA: National Aeronautics and Space Administration
  • LASER: Light Amplification by Stimulated Electron Radiation
  • ASAP: As Soon As Possible

During community share, talk about Western Civilization. Mrs. Olinski believes that Western Civilization is in a "state of decline." Why do you think so many characters believe this? Do you think people really believe that it is? Mrs. Olinski says that "Western Civilization is in a state of decline because people don't take the time to take tea at four o'clock." What do you think Mrs. Olinski feels about the "idea" of tea? Why?

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Response to Literature: Favorite/Least Favorite Character

GOAL: To encourage students, as they are reading, to identify a favorite or least favorite character and then write about him or her supporting their viewpoint


DISCUSSION TOPICS & QUESTIONS: Write about some good similes and metaphors that the author uses to develop a character. You may use examples from any of the chapters you've read. Identify one of the minor characters in the book and describe him or her. Throughout the book you have been presented with this question: How did Mrs. Olinski choose her team? Explain how you would answer this question now.

Remind students that good readers are always thinking as they are reading. They will often judge a character and decide that the character is, for example, nice, mean, or friendly. What specific things does a character do to make a reader feel a certain way? By identifying those actions, the reader is supporting his or her feelings.

Use of simile: Part of an author's style is the use of figurative language. This means that the author uses words in an unusual way, giving them meaning beyond their everyday definitions. A simile is an example of figurative language. It is a comparison of two things that are very dissimilar but that share some quality in common. A simile uses the word like or as to make the comparison.

Review with students the concept of syllabication, the breaking of words into syllables. A couple of examples using words from the book might give them a better idea of how an error such as the one Dr. Rohmer made might occur.

During the community share discuss why the sixth graders pin a rope on their shirts? What does it stand for? How do you know this? Who is leading the sixth graders in this act? Why is that so significant? Furthermore, after defeating Knightsbridge and thus being able to move to the finals, the chapter ends with the comment "Other victories followed, but none was sweeter." What does this mean? Why was this so?

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Comprehension: Questions
Literary Elements: Theme

GOAL: To encourage students to ask questions about what they are reading in order to clarify confusion; For students to analyze themes illustrated in the text


DISCUSSION TOPICS & QUESTIONS: Bella uses the expression "Less is more." What did she mean in this particular situation? Do you agree with her? Why or why not? State one theme from the text that you have discussed in class or that you have identified on your own. Describe three or more situations in the story that illustrate the theme. What is the author trying to say to you through the protagonist's actions? What do you see in the story regardless of what the author may have meant? Think about the clues you have been given about the author's choice of title for this book. Why do you think it is called The View from Saturday? Support your response with details from the book.

Review with students that a reader should always try to make sense of things while reading. If something doesn't make sense, a good reader should always ask questions. Sometimes an author likes to create "mystery" for that specific purpose. Asking good questions, thinking about them, and discussing them with others helps a reader make sense of what confuses them.

The concept of "positive taxpayer feedback" may confuse students. You may need to review that money for the public schools comes from the pockets of the citizens (taxpayers) in the community. Often those citizens hear about very few good things that are happening, so the district superintendent wants to push his school's success into the public eye. This point makes a good cross-curricular connection to local government.

Review with students that theme is the idea(s) that hold a book together. E. L. Kongisburg tells her readers that this book started as a series of short stories that she realized "were united by a single theme" (inside back cover of Aladdin Newbery paperback edition). Theme is not the subject or topic. Rather, it is the message the author is trying to send.

Introduce/review with students the concept of an explicit theme. This is a theme that the writer states openly and clearly. Implicit themes are not as clear, but must be inferred from the characters' actions and the text's events and conflicts.

Tell students that it is the reader's task to discover theme. Good readers put story ideas and events together to come up with an overall message about it (the Big Idea).

Before students begin their writing assignment, hold a mini brainstorming session on some of the themes that occur in this book. Refer back to the section on themes in the introduction to this unit.

Some questions a reader can ask to help discover theme(s):

  • What does the story mean to you, in addition to the events and characters it describes?
  • What is the author trying to say to you through the protagonist's actions?
  • What is your personal response to the story? How does it relate to ideas the author presents?

Possible thoughts for discussion in community share: Dr. Rohmer insisted that Dr. Fairbain should smile a lot and say only, "The taxpayers are very proud." Why don't you think Dr. Rohmer would let him say, "We are very proud of these youngsters" or "Everyone is proud of this team"? Later, Bella uses the expression "Less is more." What did she mean in this particular situation? Do you agree with her? Why or why not?

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Response to Literature: Personal Response: Book Critique

GOAL: To have students examine what they liked and disliked about The View from Saturday by critiquing the plot, character(s), or setting


DISCUSSION TOPICS & QUESTIONS: After finishing the book, write a critique of it. You may focus your critique on the plot, character(s), or setting. Specify what you will critique and stay focused on that area. Be specific and support your responses with examples from the text.

Students can focus their critique on any aspect of plot, characters, or setting. Readers writing a critique should look at the novel with a "critical eye," meaning that they should use careful judgment. Hold a small discussion if necessary on what this means. It is also important to stress that any statements made in a book critique need to be specific and textually supported.

It may be necessary to review or give additional support on how to critique plot, character, or setting. Prior to today's lesson, encourage students in discussion to focus carefully on the story elements and generate questions they may want to think about when writing a critique. For example: Is the plot captivating and believable? How does the author make use of humor, dialogue, and language? Is the ending logical? How does the author develop characters? Are the characters believable? What kinds of description of physical appearances and action does the author provide? What images do the author's descriptions create? Does the setting fit well with the story? Is the setting realistic? Is the setting appropriate to the conflict? etc.

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