“From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” by E.L. Konigsburg

From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler
In the ponderously but perfectly titled From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Claudia Kincaid, twelve, of Greenwich, CT is going to run away. She’s planning carefully, spurred consciously by injustice, but perhaps unconsciously by boredom:

The fact that her allowance was so small that it took her more than three weeks of skipping hot fudge sundaes to save enough for train fare was another example of injustice…Since she intended to return home after everyone had learned a lesson in Claudia appreciation, she had to save money for her return trip, too. (6-7)

Claudia, with her high standards, grammatical correctness, and desire to spend on the good things in life is a girl after my own heart. Good thing she takes along her penny-pinching little brother Jamie, as both bankroller and accountant. They run away to some place famous, have adventures, and get ensnared in a mystery in this funny, sweet, engaging book.

I’m not sure _I_ appreciated Claudia enough when I was a girl. I remember reading this book, and liking it. But this is a book worthy of love. I think Lizzie Skurnick gets to the nut of it in Shelf Discovery when she writes this:

in our post-irony age, Claudia’s experience is also a wonderful reminder of how children, though they may be precocious, certainly aren’t born knowing everything; and that when they do learn about life, it’s not always something awful they discover. (25)

There’s a wonderful lack of awful-ness in this book that made it a joy to read.

9 Responses to ““From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” by E.L. Konigsburg”

  1. Amy Says:

    I read this again a year or so again–maybe during your 15/15/15 project?–and loved it. But in a wistful way, because the world was so different then. Can you imagine trying to write this story today? With Amber alerts and heavy security and the digital age? I’m not saying then was better–it’s just this story is a product of its time.

  2. girldetective Says:

    Also, would it be possible to have the run of a museum? I’m so accustomed by thrillers to think of them full of lasers and alarms. What is DNF? Wrinkle in Time was probably my first fantasy, but I’d go on to delve deep into that genre.

  3. Amy Says:

    Did Not Finish.

  4. Kate Says:

    I liked this book, but I realize now how I was confused a LOT when I read certain books (the earliest I can remember is Madeline–why is she living with other girls and a woman with a weird hat? Where on earth are her parents?), and this was one I just didn’t get. I’d never been to New York, couldn’t figure out the laundromat stuff, and had no concept of that kind of wealth. I enjoyed it as a girl, but found it bewildering. More in the other post, but I realized reading Shelf Life the same thing happened with Sally J. Friedman. As an adult, I’m really enjoying rereading them with a lot of the knowledge a 9 year old kid in small town Michigan just didn’t have.

    Also–reading these books are what opened my eyes to all sorts of new things. It wasn’t a bad thing to be bewildered, obviously (!), but I think one of the reasons I initially loved Laura and Anne Shirley and even Meg so much was because I understood their locales so much better (and academic parents)!

    And no, I don’t know why I never asked anyone my questions. Reading was (and still is, frankly) such a private matter for me that I just needed to figure out things on my own.

  5. Patricia Says:

    I didn’t read Mixed Up for this challenge as I already had one re-read on my list, but it is fresh in my mind because it is another I discovered with my boys not too long ago. The more I look at the books on this list, the angrier I am get. Where were all of these books when I was 10-12 years old? Why didn’t my school librarian lead me in this direction? It isn’t like she didn’t know who I was. One of my other all time favorites is Koningsburg’s “The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place” and another Meg - Margaret Rose Kane.

  6. girldetective Says:

    Patricia, I feel that way sometimes when I wonder why no one had me read Jane Eyre or Pride and Prejudice growing up. I guess we can only hope to be better book guides to our kids, right? I read Konigsburg’s A View from Saturday a few years ago, and really loved it, especially the friendships.

  7. shannon Says:

    i read this book for the first time last year - with a mother/daughter bookclub. i found the themes of growing up, looking for validation, and needing something that is one’s own timeless. i was especially surprised to see books THAT old figured parentless children. i really thought this was a more modern construction and i’ve criticized the device often. yet this plot was near harmless, and the absence of parental perspective made the whole endeavor innocent and sweet. you are SO right about the lack of ‘awful-ness’. i just loved it.
    meanwhile, my daughter (unable to conceive of a time before today’s security-obsessed reality) found the book implausible, and therefore ridiculous.

  8. girldetective Says:

    Shannon, re: parentless children, there was recent article by a Stanford professor who lamented how tied her college students still were to their parents apron strings, and posited that the orphan lit of the Victorian era (which I see as a forerunner of the parentless child trope in kid’s/YA lit) was how each generation finds its own way, growing up and learning about oneself just as Claudia does. I think the book does require a suspension of disbelief–I’m sure their parents were frantic, and Caroline Cooney (who made after-school-special-y books) would have made an entirely different story out of it.

  9. Amy Says:

    Our teacher read this aloud to us in sixth grade. It sounded heavenly to me–adventures in a museum in New York. Not once did I ever think about the parents’ feelings, or museum security,or the children’s safety. Maybe that was because I was a kid, or maybe it was because I was a kid in 1976. Certainly no parent could read it and not think of those things.