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From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler: 12/01/12

cover art

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by EL Konigsburg won the 1968 Newbery medal. Claudia Kincaid decides she's had enough of her routine filled life and decides to runaway to a museum. She enlists the aid of her brother Jamie, mostly because he's good with money and has more than any of her other brothers.

After settling in to their new routine of living in the museum and taking tours with different school groups, the children begin to feel the need for something more. The museum obliges their wish with a beautiful and mysterious angel statue. The museum believes it to be the work of Michelangelo but as it was bought at auction without papers, they can't be completely sure. Claudia decides it is her calling to learn the truth of Angel's provenance.

All the while, there is Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler who is explaining and commenting on the Kincaids' adventures. How she relates to the adventure in the museum and the mystery of Angel is a big part of the fun of this novel.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler often elicits exclamations of fond memories from many of my friends. I have to admit that my recent car trip where I listened to the book on CD was my first time. I'm sorry I waited so long.

I probably would have read it in my childhood except for a well meaning but misguided school librarian. My best friend's sister who was briefly in the same elementary school as us (before she moved onto junior high) checked out the book. The librarian knowing full well that she had two young taggers along (in the form of her sister and me) warned her not to let either of us read the book until we were old enough. She gave this warning in a whisper which I suspect was purposely loud enough for us to hear. Now maybe she was trying reverse psychology on us — and I know my best friend promptly read the book right after her sister finished with it.

But I took her warning as being deadly serious. I didn't read the book even when I was in the upper grades. I was afraid of getting in trouble — which strikes me as odd since I found plenty of other ways to get in trouble at school back then. But somehow pissing off the librarian had put the fear of I don't know what into me.

What changed? Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick — that's what. In the afterword, he explains that he put a bunch of homages to the book in his novel. I decided it was time to rectify my ignorance of the book and read it.

As I listened, I tried to figure out what had caused the librarian to warn against first or second graders reading the book. I think it was Claudia's rant about doped up chocolate bars. Of course just as her concerns went right over Jamie's head, so did the whole thing go over my kids' heads. It probably would have gone over my head too back then. In other words, I should have read the book as a kid.

Five stars

Comments (2)

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Comment #1: Sunday, December 02, 2012 at 23:39:14


I can't believe you didn't get to read this as a kid! I remember picking it up for the first time and just loving it and coming back to it again and again. I can't wait to hopefully someday share it with my kids.

Comment #2: Sunday, December 16, 2002 at 22:34:33


I should have just ignored the well meaning advice.

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