Six Impossible Things

A Blog About Fiction and Reading

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

FilesFrom the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg


After reading and enjoying The View from Saturday, I decided to try out some more books by Ms. Konigsburg, so imagine my surprise when I realized that this book was also by her. I remember seeing this movie when I was a kid, and I remember hearing about the book, but for some reason, I missed reading it. I don't know why; the story of two siblings running away to live at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York would have been right up my alley.

Compared to The View from Saturday, From the Mixed-up Files is a bit choppy. Maybe it's because it was the author's first book, or maybe it's because I've read the two books that sandwich the author's career, but there was a big difference in reading Saturday and reading Files. They were both excellent books, and both deserving of the Newbery award, but I find that Saturday is a more refined story, with more refined characters. There was something about the way the author captured the group of children on the trivia team that rang true with me, and while Jamie and Claudia also seem very real, there was something about them that didn't ring as clearly. It could also be due to the age of the book (it was published in 1967), but there was something lacking there.

The book is "written" by the eponymous character, Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, to her lawyer in order to explain why she is requesting some changes to her will. The story begins far before she enters the story, and the story is peppered with her comments regarding the museum and the two children. It's a cute story of self-discovery, family relationships, and secrets, and I found myself hooked from the start. I was able to finish it in two days, which, lately, has been quite an achievement for me, but I think the author has more to do with that than anything else; I think I finished Saturday in the same amount of time.

The book, unfortunately, is very dated: Jamie and Claudia are able to eat their breakfasts and lunches for 75 cents; admission to the MMOA is free; bus and train fares are so inexpensive that even I, who have never ridden trains on a regular basis, know they're unusual. The story brushes too far away from reality in those moments, breaking the illusion, but the rest of the story is so gripping that it's hard to complain too much about it. What matters is the journey toward self-discovery, and it's there that the author shines.

I don't know if this book still has the same kind of audience as it used to, but the afterword by the author indicates that it is. The museum still receives questions about the book, and it even published a newsletter devoted to answering many of those questions. I enjoyed the book, and it was a nice way to revisit the author's world after finishing Saturday.


May 31, 2006 - Posted by | Juvenile Fiction, Reviews

1 Comment »

  1. yo this is em and we r readin this is class and I am sry but this book is ok.

    Comment by Emil | December 10, 2006 | Reply

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