Reading Group Guide
- The four sixth graders on Mrs. Olinski's academic team call themselves "The Souls." Mrs. Olinski tells them that "they were a team as soon as they became 'The Souls.'" Why is "The Souls" a good name for these four students? At what point does Mrs. Olinski realize that "The Souls" would make a good academic team? How does Mrs. Olinski become a "Soul" herself? Why does Mrs. Olinski not know why she chose "The Souls" as her team until the end of the novel?
- Mrs. Olinski and Dr. Rohmer have a discussion about diversity and multiculturalism. Explain what Dr. Rohmer means when he says, "Jews, half-Jews, and WASPs have nothing to do with diversity...The Indian does." What is the difference between diversity and multiculturalism? How is diversity important to a successful team? How might Mrs. Olinski's definition of diversity differ from Dr. Rohmer's definition? Discuss what is unique and diverse about each of "The Souls."
- Nadia and her father help Grandpa Izzy and Margaret save the turtles. How do the turtles help Nadia? What does Nadia's father mean when he says, "And there will be times when you or I will need a lift between switches"? How do Mrs. Olinski and the other "Souls" feel "stranded" like the turtles? How do you know that each of "The Souls" needs a lift? How do their individual needs contribute to their success as a team?
- "The Souls" seem to know a lot about teamwork long before becoming a team. Discuss how saving the turtles helps Nadia and Ethan learn about teamwork. What does Noah's role in the wedding of Izzy Diamondstein and Margaret Draper teach him about teamwork? How does Julian learn about being a team player on the cruise ship?
- Margaret Draper retired from education because she couldn't deal with the drastic changes in the students. She says that students had stopped asking "Now what?" and began asking "So what?" Discuss the difference between these questions. Mrs. Olinski chooses Ethan, Margaret Draper's grandson, for the academic team when she realizes that he still asks the question "Now what?" How is asking "Now what?" an important quality for a member of an academic team? How might asking "So what?" be the demise of a team of any type?
- There are times in life when one has to take risks in order to be successful. How do "The Souls" and Mrs. Olinski demonstrate their willingness to take risks? How does this contribute to their success as a team?
- Each member of "The Souls" is resourceful and each, at some point, demonstrates courage. How does Noah's resourcefulness save the day at Izzy and Margaret's wedding? How does Julian's manner in handling the bully, Ham Knapp, reveal that he is both resourceful and courageous? How does being resourceful and courageous contribute to "The Souls" becoming a team?
- Mrs. Olinski is a teacher who can tolerate mischief, but she cannot accept malice. Discuss the difference between mischief and malice. How is Ham Knapp guilty of malice? How can mischief and malice interfere with learning? Ham Knapp is very intelligent, but his behavior keeps him off the academic team. How does his behavior indicate that he isn't a team player?
About the Book
Mrs. Eva Marie Olinski is charged with appointing four students to represent her sixth-grade class in the Epiphany Middle School Academic Bowl competition. Though she doesn't have a clue as to why she chooses Noah, Ethan, Nadia, and Julian, she has a premonition that her decision is a good one. These four students, calling themselves "The Souls," surprise everyone by defeating the seventh and eighth graders and winning the school-wide competition. When they go on to win the state Academic Bowl Championship, Mrs. Olinski begins to realize what she didn't know in the beginning. Each of "The Souls" had been on a journey -- a journey that interlocked their lives like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. What Noah, Ethan, Nadia, and Julian had learned along the way is the true meaning of friendship. What they discover when they find one another is that kindness and friendship make them a team.
The View from Saturday is about teamwork. Divide the class into three teams. Assign each team five questions taken from the fifteen questions at the end of the novel. Allot the teams one class period to find the answers to the questions. Tell them that they may use reference sources in the media center or search for answers on the Internet. Allow each team time to share their answers with the class. Then engage the class in a discussion about teamwork. How does a group become a team? What is the responsibility of each team member? Ask each group to explain how they organized their team.
Reaching Across the Curriculum: Activities and Research
Pretend that you are on the staff of The Epiphany Middle School newspaper. Write a feature article about "The Souls." Include an interview with each of "The Souls" and Mrs. Olinski.
Read From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg. How might Claudia and Jamie Kincaid be considered "Souls?" Write a letter that Claudia and Jamie might write to "The Souls" congratulating them on their victory.
Izzy Diamondstein and Margaret Draper are married in a Jewish ceremony. Research the meaning of the chupah, the bridal canopy, and other significant parts of the ceremony. Contrast their wedding ceremony with wedding ceremonies in other religions.
Margaret Draper and Izzy Diamondstein do volunteer work in their community. Margaret volunteers at the garden club, and Izzy at the public library. Find places in your city or community that use senior citizens as volunteers. Are there places or agencies that use the volunteer services of young teenagers? How does volunteering relate to teamwork? Why is teamwork essential for a strong and healthy community?
The sea turtles that Nadia and Ethan help save are a threatened species. Find out the difference between threatened and endangered. What animals that live in your area of the country have been placed on the threatened or endangered species list by the Environmental Protection Agency? What state and federal laws protect them? How are the laws enforced in your state?
Nadia gets an A on a report that she writes about the five kinds of sea turtles. Brainstorm the kind of information that Nadia might have included in her paper. Prepare a report on one of the following types of sea turtles: loggerheads, greens, leatherbacks, hawkbills, or Kemp's ridley.
Develop a list of behavioral characteristics that you would label mischief and those that you would label malice. Observe student behavior in your school for one week and chart behaviors in the two categories. Construct a graph that illustrates the occurrences of such behavior in your school. What can you deduct from your observation about student behavior in your school?
Have a victory tea party for "The Souls" at Sillington House. Prepare typical foods for high English tea. Write invitations to the party in calligraphy. Play background music that would be especially appealing to "The Souls." Select from among your belongings at home an appropriate item as a gift for each of "The Souls" and Mrs. Olinski. Be prepared to share why you chose each specific gift.
This guide was prepared by Pat Scales. She is the library media specialist at Greenville Middle School, Greenville, South Carolina, and she teaches children's literature at Furman University.