E.L. Konigsburg, Who Wrote 'From The Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler,' Has Died
E.L. Konigsburg — the author of one of my favorite childhood books, the brilliantly quirky mystery From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler – died April 19 at the age of 83. The book, which features a spunky 12-year-old and her younger brother, runaways who essentially move into New York’s Metropolitan Museum, was one of those I read time and again, dog-earing the pages and splitting the spine. (I was at that age where running away from home seemed especially appealing.) I was a kid in a small town in Texas; I’d never been to Manhattan — but after reading From The Mixed-Up Files, I couldn’t stop dreaming about the museum and the city. I moved here after college, and I still remember my first visit to the Met, the pages of the novel echoing in my mind.
I never met E.L. Konigsburg, but I think I would have liked her immensely. She once wrote in an essay in the Saturday Review that “Reading was tolerated in my house, but it wasn’t sanctioned like dusting furniture or baking cookies. My parents never minded what I read, but they did mind when (like before the dishes were done) and where (there was only one bathroom in our house).” She won the prestigious Newbery Award for children’s literature in 1968 for From The Mixed-Up Files, and she won it again in 1997 for The View From Saturday.
Loved that book.
Also Ellen Raskin's The Westing Game.
Both of them super-clever Newbery winners, and justifiably so.
Are Newbery winners these days just as good?
Some are good, of course, R1, but I tried to read this year's Newbery winner, The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, and it bored me to death and I gave up it. Utterly lifeless writing. It's not a patch on "From the Mixed-Up Files of..."
My childhood touchstone books were "Winkin Blinkin & Nod" and Ghost in the Swing".
One thing I loved about both of those novels (and also The Great Gilly Hopkins, I just realized) is that they had flawed - but ultimately compassionate - main characters. Not just snappy, or bullying main characters (that seems to equal writing shorthand for "flawed"), but nuanced, real characterization. That goes as well for another Newbery winner from my childhood, Bridge to Terebethia.
Sometimes I wonder whether our narcissistic look-at-me-itis culture a-la-American Idol etc. has meant that it is not just our fictional characters that have lost depth, but also whether children and adolescents aren't fully maturing emotionally until their mid-30s at least.
Yes, I am in my early 40s.
Thank you, r40—I remember a DL thread a few years ago where everyone was trashing "Bridge to Terebithia." Sacrilege!
I loved "Mixed Up Files" because I could identify with both kids: Claudia wanting glamour and to be surrounded beauty and the more pragmatic Jamie.
If I had to pick a single favorite book from my childhood, this would be it. I read it again and again and again. I grew up in rural Iowa. I knew if things got too bad, I could run away to New York City and live in the Met. That got me through a lot of bad days.
Thank you for the childhood flashback OP. Time to go steal change from the fountain...
I loved that book. I couldn't imagine anything more glamorous than running away and sleeping in an antique bed in the Met.
I loved the book. Made me want to live in the Met.
That book and Harriet the Spy made me want to grow up and move to New York and become a writer. And I did.
I'll be in NYC end of May and have rearranged my schedule to take a few hours and enjoy the Met.
Good for you, r11.
Me too (though I never moved to New York).
I loved that book, and the film version with Ingrid Bergman