‘From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler’ by E.L. Konigsburg (Review)

IMG_5263While all of the books from Pushkin Children’s Books that Miss Emily has covered so far have been translations, some of the range did first appear in English, and today’s choice is one of those.  It’s a famous story in its homeland, an early work by a very well-known writer, and judging by her smile, it looks as if my assistant is pleased with it too – let’s go and find out 🙂

What’s the name of the book, and who is it by?
The book is called From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and it’s by E.L. Konigsburg.

What’s it about?
It’s about a girl called Claudia who decides to run away because she’s tired of being a perfect A+ student.  She and her brother Jamie run away to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, where they end up sleeping in the Queen’s bed and having baths in a fountain!  They also soon find a mystery to solve.  Is the popular angel statue just a copy, or is it actually by a famous artist?  Claudia and Jamie try to find out 🙂

Did you like it?  Why (not)?
I liked it a lot, and the mystery is very mysterious.  Claudia and Jamie aren’t exactly getting along at the start, but soon they find that they can still get along.  I also liked the bits when Jamie called his sister Lady Claudia!

What was your favourite part?
I didn’t really have a favourite part – I liked it all 🙂

Was it difficult to read?
Not really, well maybe the name of the museum and Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler 😦

Would you recommend this book to other boys and girls?  Why (not)?
I would recommend this book for people who like museums, running away and playing cards for money.  It might be better for older boys and girls – some bits are a bit complicated.

Emily, thank you very much.

E.L. Konigsburg is a legendary name in American children’s literature, but I’d never heard of her, or this book, before the review copy dropped into our letter box (a reminder that my generation wasn’t quite as America-focused as the more recent ones).  According to my quick skim through her Wikipedia entry extensive research, she is one of only six writers to have won the Newberry Medal, an award given to the author of “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children”, on two separate occasions.  Which must be a good thing 🙂

The main story is introduced by a letter to her lawyer from the mysterious Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler herself, one which gives the reader a fair idea of her character:

“I can’t say that I enjoyed your last visit.  It was obvious that you had too much on your mind to pay any attention to what I was trying to say.  Perhaps, if you had some interest in this world besides law, taxes and your grandchildren, you could almost be a fascinating person.  Almost.”
p.7 (Pushkin Children’s Books, 2015)

Ouch.  Of course, those who have read the book will realise that these first lines contain several hints as to what is to unfold in the rest of the book…

There’s no translator involved this time, of course, but that’s not to say that the book is just a copy of an American version.  It’s a lovely little book in its own right, with a bright cover and French flaps, and Miss Emily has happily added it to her collection, where it’s nestling nicely between her Erich Kästner books and The Cat Who Came in off the Roof.

Another success then, and a book we can recommend for you (or your children!).  Just be careful if you do decide to buy it for your little ones – you might be giving them ideas for the next time they take a trip to the museum.  If you see them accumulating small change and packing some snacks in their backpacks ‘for later’, you’ll know who’s to blame 😉

2 thoughts on “‘From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler’ by E.L. Konigsburg (Review)

  1. I LOVED this book as a child and was seriously plotting how to run away and hide at the Natural History Museum or Art Museum in Vienna. I could never remember its title though. Pleased to see Emily liked it and that it translates well across generations. I bought it recently for my own children.


    1. Marina Sofia – As I said in the post, I’d never heard of it prior to seeing it on the Pushkin site – shows how different things have become (now, any half-decent American book will be here before it’s been out a week…).


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