I first read From the Mixed up files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler in 1969 just after it won the Newberry medal. I was in senior Primary school and I can even remember the look and feel of the hard cover edition in our school library complete with its special gold sticker. I remember I also loved the long title and the author who only used her initials.
I recently read Wonderstruck and all through the book I kept thinking of From the Mixed up files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler and then I read that Brain Selznick also had this book in his mind. Selznick says there are clues from the Mixed up files to be found in Wonderstruck but I have yet to discover them. This will take further careful study. Which leads me to today - I read this wonderful book once again all in one sitting and I loved it but I am also amazed at the parts I remembered and the parts I had forgotten and the parts I had invented.
I remembered the running away, the bed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art used by Claudia and Jamie, the fact that they had very little money, seeing the Angel statue for the first time and their attempt to solve the mystery. I did not remember the lovely relationship that forms between these siblings, their swim in the restaurant fountain nor the real reason Claudia needed to run away. In my distorted memory I thought part of the story happened in the basement of the Museum and I had the impression Mrs Frankweiler was a far more mysterious figure.
This is such an old book but we have a lovely new edition in our library with a heart felt afterword by E.L. Konigsburg. Even though a few really minor details are reflective of the time this book was written such as the cost of things and the use of typewriters, this book has really stood the test of time. I am certain any middle Primary reader in my library would enjoy it.
I imagine visitors to the Metropolitan Museum of Art who have read this book often try to find all the special places these children explore over their week of adventure. Konigsburg mentions this in her afterword. I also liked the way Konigsburg provided ways for the children to really live in the museum – washing their clothes, cleaning teeth, following school tour groups, eating at the cafeteria and even leaving the museum to do research in a real library.
Teachers looking for a way to explain the true purpose of learning should look no further than this timeless quote from Mrs Frankweiler
“But Mrs Frankweiler, you should want to learn one new thing every day.(says Claudia) … No … I don’t agree with that. I think you should learn, of course, and some days you must learn a great deal. But you should also have days when you allow what is already in you to swell up inside of you until it touches everything. And you can feel it inside you. If you never take time out to let that happen, then you just accumulate facts, and they begin to rattle around inside of you. You can make noise with them, but you can never really feel anything with them. It’s hollow.”
Here is a link to the 1995 movie.