Retroread: The Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

retroread logoI’m incredibly happy to report that E.L. Kongsburg’s “The Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” lived up to my memories!

I was nervous about rereading the book because it’s one of my favorite kids’ books. What if my memories were tarnished? What if Claudia Kincaid’s adventures at the Met didn’t match my expectations this time around?

Thankfully, memories are intact and expectations are met. What struck me on the reread was how well paced the book is. Konigsburg gives every piece of her story exactly the right amount of time.

Readers may wish they had spent more time in the museum with the Kincaids, but more time would likely detract from the overall story and could seem repetitive. How many times does a reader want to hear about the kids hiding out in the restrooms or picking up coins from the fountain?

In my memories, Mrs. Frankweiler was more involved in the story. In truth, she’s the narrator and only shows up at the end. I think the Kincaids spend a few hours with her and in her file room. I always thought it was more. But again, it turns out to be the perfect amount.

Especially for young readers. As an adult rereading the book, I may want more about the Kincaid family, Mrs. Frankweiler, or Claudia’s motivations for running away. A young reader may not need that. Claudia runs away because she wants to feel different. That’s enough motivation for her — she can’t really put it into better words than that. And it’s enough of a explanation for a young reader: things aren’t horrible at home, but I want something more. Claudia doesn’t put much more thought into it and I don’t think a young reader would.

I’m very happy that I reread the book. And I’m looking forward to the next retroread. It’s another kids’ book with a mystery at its center: “The Westing Game” by Ellen Raskin.


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