Retroread: Could It Be Written Today?

retroread logoI finished “From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” yesterday. To be honest, it’s a quick read as an adult. I’ll post my full thoughts on the book later on, but as I was reading this question popped into my head: could the book be written today?

Warning: spoilers ahead.I don’t know. Claudia and Jamie run away by hiding on their school bus until it takes them to the bus depot and the driver leaves. I had the impression the school didn’t report them missing. That’s possibly because I don’t remember my elementary school (way back in the 70s, kids) calling my house to report my absence and my mom didn’t call the school to say I was sick.

I believe they could get on a train without an adult and no one would ask 2 kids what they were doing in the museum or around New York. Not so sure about the museum security. I think things have changed since E.L. Konigsburg wrote the book in 1966. I’d love to believe it’s still possible to sleep in one of the antique beds and wander through the galleries without setting off an alarm or being caught on camera, but I doubt it.

The Kincaid siblings didn’t have the Internet – it was 1966, after all – nor did the museum officials or interested public and press. If they did, would they have all discovered Angel’s secret without having to pay a visit to Mrs. Frankweiler and her files? Would Mrs. Frankweiler even have had filing cabinets? Or would all of her research be kept on a hard drive? Somehow I think she would have kept using paper files – she seems that kind of lady.

But since so much of the book hangs on the kids’ disappearance and ability to stay hidden (no Amber alerts in the 60s), I don’t know if it could be written the same way today. Maybe it doesn’t resonate with modern kids the way it did with me and my friends in the 70s.

My sister teaches elementary school and has used the book in her classes. She told me it didn’t capture their attention the way she hoped it would. It’s one of our favorite books, but maybe it doesn’t work the same for kids raised with Amber alerts and the Internet and security cameras.

Maybe that’s why a lot of children’s books now featuring kids running away from home involve magic or portals to another dimension or time. Maybe that’s the only way around all the modern trimmings that keep kids safe at home.

I’m not sure. But it’s something to think about.




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