A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that superb writing and characters make for a great story, but complexities of plot and style may leave some readers frustrated or bored.
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What's the story?
An uproarious Florida wedding, a rain-soaked rescue of sea turtles, and a mysterious invitation to afternoon tea are the connections that draw sixth-graders Noah, Nadia, Ethan, and Julian into a fast friendship. Master-author Konigsburg gives each of these memorable characters a turn telling how they formed an unbeatable team in their school's Academic Bowl, in this brilliant but complex novel.
When asked how she chose her school's latest team for the Academic Bowl, sixth-grade teacher Mrs. Olinksi never gives the same answer twice. Sure, the four sixth-graders from her homeroom are intelligent, they work well together, they practice hard. But what is the mysterious bond that links these four underdogs?
Only Noah, Nadia, Ethan, and Julian know -- and in alternating chapters, each one tells a different piece of the story of how they became friends. The calamitous wedding of Nadia's grandfather and Ethan's grandmother, where Noah fills in as best man, is just the beginning. Mrs. Olinski, a paraplegic, proves to be an indomitable coach as the foursome wins one victory after another.
Is it any good?
Konigsburg weaves all the elements together into a satisfying and thought-provoking whole, though one so intricately constructed that it may be confusing to inexperienced readers.
Nadia, Noah, Ethan, and Julian each narrates a part of the book. Part of the pleasure comes from watching the foursome's varied life experiences help them succeed as an Academic Bowl Team, and part comes from the suspense generated at the story's beginning: How does Mrs. Olinski select the children for her team? The story's themes -- that life is a journey, that no part of our experience is lost -- appear in touches as varied as Nadia's talented dog, Julian's shipboard apprenticeship with a magician, and sea-turtle lore.
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