I read The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler for the first time when I was in college taking a Children’s Literature class. I enjoyed the story line then and enjoyed it now. But I have to say that re-reading it as an adult and parent my take on it was different this time through. As a younger person I viewed it more as an adventure, whereas this time I viewed it more as kids running away from home. However, for summer reading your kids will enjoy the adventure and mystery of this story!
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is the setting for most of the story, which I must say makes for a beautiful setting! Kongisburg has a way of making the reader feel like they’ve been there and could wander around and know where things are.
What I Liked
Konigsburg has created characters that are strong and well developed. Jamie and Claudia reminded me a little bit of my kids. Claudia is always interested in learning and is well organized while Jamie is good with money and doesn’t feel the need to wash everyday or learn something everyday. I liked that Jamie was the treasurer, and his decisions about how they spent their money were final. Even if Claudia disagreed with him, she let them stand. And even though Jamie didn’t necessarily agree with or understand Claudia’s desire to learn, he went along with it and even enjoyed it most of the time.
The main theme that ran throughout the book was the need to feel important and valued. “Claudia was the oldest child and the only girl and was subject to a lot of injustice.” She felt like she wasn’t valued or noticed at home, and she really wanted to be important. In the end, their adventure and having an important secret wound up being enough for her.
What I Didn’t Like
One thing I noticed reading through The Mixed Up Files as an adult is that there is no concern or resolution for the family that has been frantically searching for their kids for a week. I found it a little unrealistic that Jamie and Claudia’s parents would be okay with them staying with a complete stranger when they’ve been missing all week. We don’t get any sense that Claudia or Jamie feel any sort of remorse about what they’ve put their family through. As a kid reading this book, of course I never noticed this. But, having my own kids now I guess I come into it with a different perspective!
Do I recommend The Mixed Up Files
I recommend this story because it is a classic and a great story. I recommended this book for upper elementary and middle school children. The writing is excellent, and the story line is exciting and worth your time.
About the Author
The author of this book E.L. Konigsburg is a Newbery Award winner and runner-up. From her publisher’s website: “E.L. Konigsburg is the only author to have won the Newbery Medal and be runner-up in the same year. In 1968, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler won the Newbery Medal and Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth was named a Newbery Honor Book. Almost thirty years later she won the Newbery Medal once again for The View From Saturday. She has also written and illustrated three picture books: Samuel Todd’s Book of Great Colors, Samuel Todd’s Book of Great Inventions, and Amy Elizabeth Explores Bloomingdale’s. In 2000 she wrote Silent to the Bone, which was named a New York Times Notable Book and an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, among many other honors.”
Follow Up Options
The Metropolitan Museum of Art devoted an issue of their Museum Kids magazine to this book because they continue to get so many questions about it. The issue is now a pdf file and is easily downloaded from their website. Makes for some fun and interesting reading! If you happen to be planning a trip to NYC anytime with your kids, this would be fun to incorporate.
And, apparently, there is a movie that was made about this book in 1973 called The Hideaways starring Ingrid Bergman and Madeline Kahn. I’ve not seen this movie, so I can’t speak to how good it is. But, I hadn’t realized they had made a movie from this book.
If your kids, or even you, haven’t read The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler yet, I recommend getting it! It’s fun, adventurous and there are some great lessons to build on in it! If your children are a little young to read it by themselves, then get the book and read it together! It would be a great experience for both of you. So, read the book, watch the movie, and then go to a museum and see what adventure might await you there!
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Becki is the author and founder of A Book Lover’s Adventures. She has a degree in elementary education, has worked and volunteered in libraries for years, and spent several years in the travel industry. All of this has led to a love of books and travel. Becki loves to share her love by finding literary escapes to share!