Sunday, July 3, 2016

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

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thought I’d read this when I was a kid, but coming back to it, it seemed brand new. Maybe I conflated it with something else, but it wasn’t a trip down memory lane. Instead, it was a whole new experience. Claudia and Jamie run away to live at the Met in New York, and spend much of their time living on an early 1960s budget.

More importantly, my ten-year-old son liked it. He’s the one who assigned it four stars out of five, and that sounds about right to me. He says it’s “interesting,” and he enjoyed the balance between the adventure in the city and the details about art and negotiating their hiding places.

Me, I admired the voice. I certainly didn’t remember that Mrs. Frankweiler is our narrator, and I like the way that gives Konigsberg the opportunity to explain some otherwise inaccessible information to her fictional audience, her long-time attorney to whom she is writing the entire story. There’s a sophistication to the narrative that, along with forgiving some of the social and economic changes of the last fifty years, makes this a cut above most of the usual tweener books I know.

Still, this one doesn’t quite have the magic of, say, Holes or A Wrinkle in Time. I’m willing to suspend disbelief for a book, but it’s hard here to forget that these are two kids along in the big city with parents who are worried sick about them. Instead, I’m supposed to sympathize with their quest to learn about a new piece of art. My son’s experience suggests there are still kids who can do that, but I don’t think it quite works for a parent.

So, in the end, I’m glad it worked for a ten-year-old. Maybe it worked for me when I was the target age, but apparently I’ve forgotten (or I never tried it).

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