Thursday, January 3, 2008

BOOK: From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler by E.L. Konisburg

From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler by E.L. Konisburg

1968 Newbery Winner (Book Awards Challenge)

I bought this for my ten year old son for Christmas but he hasn't been intrigued by it enough yet - I told him it's like Night at the Museum, but maybe not completely. I read it last night, taking a break from the intensity of The Book Thief; Nazi Germany stories do that to me.

The story is cute although a little dated, as Claudia runs away from the injustice of chores and a too small allowance, and from a desire to stop being ordinary. (Her life did not have the makings of an after school special) She chooses her younger brother Jamie, excellent with money, to go with her. Claudia is a great planner and they stay at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. They encounter surprisingly few obstacles and live a pretty cool week on their own with a mystery to try to solve.
The author includes an afterward to my edition which explains how times have changed and what could and could not have happened today. It makes the book a nice history lesson as well as a good story. I hope my son will read this soon as it is a nice little easy read that shows life in a different time.


  1. I absolutely adored that book when I was little! I would have loved to be both as capable and as ruthless as Claudia. And it always made me want to go to New York and see all the museums, which I still haven't, twenty-ish years later.

    I don't know what I think about the author's afterword, though I'd be interested to read it! I remember reading children's books from a variety of periods from the nineteenth century onwards, and having fun working out when they were set and so forth. Though I didn't always get it right! (I remember reading Elizabeth Enright's Melendy stories, and thinking that the war that's mentioned must be the Vietnam war, because WWII was just too long ago to conceive of...)

    It must be hard writing children's adventure fiction now. Children today are hardly ever alone, and they're constantly checked up on...

  2. k - It certainly was a different time. Now there would be Amber alerts and it's true, kids are seldom left on their own.
    Konisburg talked about a post-9/11 world.
    Today's children's fiction is all fantasy - unrealistic stuff, or desperately realistic, or based on a TV show.
    My son loved The Great Brain series; 1880s Utah was a new setting for him and I'm sure I won't get him to read the Little House books, so he got some pioneer stuff

  3. This is a childhood favorite that I reread during my adult Newbery phase (and I still loved it). I'll have to see if I can find a copy with the author's afterword.

    Just reading your comment about the post-9/11 world . . . yep. I can see that. "Desperately realistic" and "fantasy" describe all the more recent YA publications I can think of. I just read a total fantasy, yesterday - one of the Alex Rider spy series. A 14-year-old spy is wild enough, but the things he encounters . . . impossible. You really have to be able to totally let go of reality in order to enjoy those books. And, I think that's the whole point - adventure without any basis in reality. It's kind of sad that the choice is either to abandon reality or be immersed in it.

  4. I love this book and was once fortunate enough to get a tour of the Met from the former director. When I asked him about it, he said many school groups read it before they visit and he described some of the behind the scenes of the movie production. Although it was not an Afterschool Special, there was a movie and Ingrid Bergman played Mrs. Frankweiler!

    I liked the Great Brain books too!


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