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

e. l. konigsburg is a mulitple Newberry Medal winner for her works for children. The next few posts regard the e.l. konigsburg Collection with three of her novels. For simplicity, these blogs will go in order of the books as listed in the collection.

The first, and probably her most well-known piece is the beloved From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Many of you have probably read this one, so my account will be brief.

This book takes us on a journey with Claudia and Jamie, two of four siblings living in the New York area. Claudia, the eldest of all four, decides to run away from “injustice” and the suggested boredom of routine. After much thought, she decides to take her brother Jamie with her. Her plan is for them to run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where they live, study, and soon discover the sculpture Angel. Angel is a mystery that Claudia cannot resist solving. Their studies lead them to the door of Mrs. Frankweiler herself.

At first glance, this story has little but basic charm and creative story-telling, but upon closer inspection, one can find some interesting concepts. First is the nature of learning. Although Claudia and Jamie do not claim to adore school or their lessons in any particular way, they quickly develop the ability and some relative enjoyment of independent learning. Interestingly, their learning and searching becomes much more in depth and involves a high level of critical thinking as they solve the mystery of Angel. The lesson? Formalized education is hardly the only way to learn, and yes, children can learn critical thinking. Don’t be afraid to start early. And it really helps to peak their interest. Children have a natural curiosity that helps them learn even faster than adults. Similarly, it teaches children that it’s okay to investigate, to learn. They may find something out that no one else knows, simply by having the courage to ask the question.

It poses another argument often seen in literature, including Peter Pan, the His Dark Materials series, and the infamous Lord of the Flies. The question is, what would happen if children were not guided? What would we do without routine and established social rules? How easily can we escape them? Claudia’s answer is to continue her routine, even in a different environment and maintain socialization, even when they must live invisibly. Her answer is to be “inconspicuous” they must blend in and obey many social rules. But more than that, they obey many of the lessons they learned at home and much of their routine (that she wished to escape) because it felt right to her. It’s an interesting addition to the general socialization debate.

Thus, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler receives Inklings approval. Appropriate for most ages.

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