Published September 1st 1996 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
Newbery Medal (1997), Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award Nominee (1998), Rebecca Caudill Young Reader’s Book Award Nominee (2000)
Mrs Olinski, paralyzed ten years ago, returns to teaching Gr 6, and chooses four trivia team students, who become champions, in more than the state competition. Each narrates a section. Julian Singh, the strangest one on the school bus, invites Noah, red-haired Nadia, and silent Ethan, to Sillington House for tea ‘always at four’. (Goodreads)
I picked this book up on a whim at a thrift store because of the literary award sticker on the front. I don’t often read middle grade, but if I do it’s usually because it has been recommended or it has a fabulous sticker. This was actually quite an endearing story. It follows Mrs Olinski as she returns to work after being paralyzed and wheelchair bound. This year she has a brand new sixth grade class. Within her class are four souls who find their way to her and each other. Told from varying points of view, first as present day competition day to flashbacks of each characters individual journey. Through their stories we get to know them as characters and how they and the story itself intertwines. What I enjoyed most about this book was the characters. The fact that there was an Academic Bowl and sixth graders were leading in points really had no effect on me liking this story. It was all about unlikely characters coming together, their personal journey and their journey together. The cool tie in with the Academic Bowl was that their personal journey explained how they knew so much about life and the questions they had to answer at the Bowl. If you enjoy middle grade, or award winning books in general I recommend this to you. It’s rather short and a quick read.