Right off the bat, let me first tell you that E.L. Konigsburg is a two-time Newbery Medal winner. Yes, you read that right – two-time winner! What an incredible feat! Needless to say, this review will be a short one. What more can be said about this book that hasn’t already been said?
"From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler" is a unique novel that’s filled with humour, history, and a whole lot of child-like wonder. I was consistently amazed at Konigsburg’s ability to enter into the mind of a child, and also consistently amazed that I hadn’t read this book when I was young.
Claudia, a 12-year-old girl who is unsatisfied with her domestic boring life, decides to run away with her wealthy little brother, Jamie. Together they embark on a journey to find adventure by hiding out in New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. What Claudia doesn’t realize is that her need to run away doesn’t just stem from unsatisfaction, but from a desire to grow and change, and discover more about herself. Jamie’s just along for the ride. And what a fun ride it is!
Recommended Age Group?
The publisher’s recommended age group is 9-12. I agree with this recommendation. Children younger than 9 might not understand everything that happens within the pages, considering the story is set in the 1960s.
Younger readers may need a little help in understanding the narration of this novel. When I first began reading, I was confused as to why the novel opened with Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler writing a letter to her lawyer. I wasn’t sure how that would tie into the novel later, but that confusion quickly dissolved when I realized that she was the narrator of this story, rather than an unknown third-person omniscient narrator. This fact made the story that much more intriguing!
The themes in this novel are applicable even in today’s 21st century. The main character, Claudia, learns about teamwork and how that teamwork can be applied in a family setting. She learns about dissatisfaction and what to do to overcome it. She learns about art, history, and truth, and how to apply those things to her own life. Jamie, on the other hand, goes through smaller changes, and gets to watch his sister grow into a new version of herself.
There is some mild language and drug terms in this book. It’s a small section where Jamie finds a chocolate bar on the ground and Claudia is worried it’s laced with dope. There is mention of marijuana and becoming dope addicts. If this is the only thing holding you back from reading this book with your students or children, this section can be skipped without taking away from the themes.
This book is definitely classroom approved, keeping in mind that some of the mild language reflects the age of this book (published in 1967).
Your students will enjoy the story, love the characters, and get a chance to learn more about 1960s art, culture, and history. I highly recommend this book and look forward to reading all of what Konigsburg has to offer. As always, I do promote pre-reading any novel you intend to teach, as each class is different and filled with different maturity levels.