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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Top 100 Children’s Novels (#5)

from mixedup files Top 100 Childrens Novels (#5)#5 From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg (1967)
(#1)(#1)(#1)(#1)(#1)(#1) (#1)(#1)(#1)(#2)(#2)(#2) (#2)(#3)(#3)(#3)(#3)(#3) (#3)(#3)(#3)(#4)(#4)(#4) (#4)(#4)(#4)(#4)(#4)(#4) (#4)(#4)(#5)(#5)(#5)(#5) (#5)(#5)(#5)(#5)(#6)(#6) (#6)(#6)(#6)(#6)(#6)(#7) (#7)(#7)(#7)(#7)(#7)(#8) (#8)(#8)(#8)(#9)(#9)(#9) (#9)(#9)(#9)(#9)(#9)(#9) (#9)(#10)(#10)(#10) – 409 points

Ahh, yes. The book that has warped the way I view museums forevermore. Now when I look at rare antique furniture, I think “would that be a good place to sleep?” and fountains are often eyed as potential sources of income. Bathrooms? Completely and thoroughly judged for their ability to hide me from security staff. Look at what you’ve done, Ms. Konigsburg. Look and despair. - Brooke Shirts (Casa Camisas)

Quite simply, the best adventure story I ever read. I can still taste Claudia’s hot fudge sundaes, can still see the black bathtub in Mrs. Frankweiler’s house and still feel the joy when Claudia and Jamie find the correct file. - Cathy Berner, Children’s/Young Adult Specialist and Events Coordinator, Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston, Texas

This book, along with Trixie Belden and the Mystery of the Blinking Eye, brought Manhattan to my Portland, Oregon childhood. - Laurie Amster-Burton (Six Boxes of Books)

I read this book over and over as a child, longing to have such a beautiful, artistic and literary adventure. What child doesn’t want to identify with smart and sassy Claudia who takes control and chooses her own adventure? Running away to the Met will always be in the back of my head as a last resort, thanks to this book. – Kristen Marie Stewart

As a child reading this book, I wanted to BE Claudia and follow in her footsteps. As an adult, I empathize with her and marvel at the human connections Konigsburg renders so brilliantly. – Tanya (books4yourkids.com)

The first time I wrote to an author and she wrote back. We’ve been pals ever since. And who didn’t want to stow away in the museum? – Schuyler Hooke

When I had the kids read this book as part of my library bookgroup I told them all about automats.  They were enthralled.  Word on the street is that there’s one operating automat in town somewhere.  We should take a field trip or something.

The synopsis from the book itself reads, "Claudia knew that she could never pull off the old-fashioned kind of running away . . . so she decided to run not from somewhere but to somewhere – somewhere large, warm, comfortable, and beautiful.  And that was how Claudia and her brother, Jamie, ended up living in the Metropolitan Museum of Art – and right in the middle of a mystery that made headlines."

Origins.  According to Perry Nodelman in American Writers for Children Since 1960: Fiction, "Konigsburg has said the book originated at a family picnic in Yellowstone National Park, during which her children complained about everything they could think of: ‘I realized that if my children ever left home, they would never revert to barbarism. They would carry with them all the fussiness and tidiness of suburban life. Where could they go…? Maybe they could find some way to live with caution and compulsiveness and still satisfy their need for adventure’."  I love that quote.  It sort of allows the entire book to make sense to me.

Anita Silvey in 100 Best Books for Children adds in some other pertinent details.  "In 1965 she read in the New York Times about the purchase of a statue by the Metropolitan Museum of Art – The Lady with the Primroses, possibly the work of Leonardo da Vinci."  The characters of Claudia and Jamie were also based on her own kids.

In terms of the book, Nodelman quotes John Rowe Townsend who says, "The fact that Mrs. Frankweiler narrates the whole story, which she herself does not enter until near the end, seems to me to be a major flaw."  Nodelman adds, "indeed, the biggest question about this novel is why Mrs. Frankweiler is in it at all. But it is Mrs. Frankweiler’s presence in the book that allows it to be more than lightweight."

Pop Quiz Hotshots: What do the E. and the L. in E.L. Konigsburg’s name stand for?  You have until the end of this post to answer correctly.  Tick… tick… tick…

When asked in an interview in the February 1986 edition of Language Arts how she crafts her stories, Ms. Konigsburg had this to say: "Somewhere in the course of writing the characters take over and often begin writing their own dialogue. I remember very well writing From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler up to the point at which Claudia and Jamie go to Mrs. Frankweiler‘s house, and Claudia excuses herself to wash up before lunch, and she sees that marvelous black marble bathtub; I didn’t know until Claudia was in the bathroom that she was actually going to take a bath in that bathtub; it’s telling myself the story as I’m telling it to others. That’s a kind of magic that happens when your characters become so alive that you write something, and review it the next day and you think, ‘Oh, did I write that?’ It’s almost as if you’re a conduit for what’s happening."

Personally, I was very pleased indeed to read the book and find that the library Claudia visited when she and Jamie need to do some research was the then new Donnell Library on 53rd between 5th and 6th Avenue.  I used to work there.  At the time the book came out New York Public Library’s Central Children’s Room had not yet moved to that location (they would do so in 1970).  Now the library is gone, but it lives on in Claudia’s research.  Personally, my associations with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, however, are tied far closer to Sesame Street Visits the Museum rather than this book.

The book won a Newbery Award in 1968, beating out The Black Pearl by Scott O’Dell, The Fearsome Inn by Isaac Bashevis Singer, The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder (#100 on the poll), and (amazingly enough) fellow E.L. Konigsburg title (and her first novel) Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth. That was a good year for her.  Indeed, Frankweiler was published just a few months after Jennifer.  Nodelman says, "The Newbery list has not included two books by the same author before or since."  Imagine that pressure.  Your first two books win both a Newbery and a Newbery Honor.  It’s amazing she ever managed to write anything again!  Weaker souls would have crumbled under the pressure (and indeed book #3, About the B’Nai Bagels, received some criticism for not living up to its predecessors).

Perhaps there is lots of art based on this book out there, but my heart belongs to this image from artist Phil McAndrews.  As you can see, it’s from the beginning of the book when Claudia is attempting to convince Jamie of her brilliant plan.

basilef02 Top 100 Childrens Novels (#5)


Of all the books on this Top 100, this one has probably had the strangest incremental changes made to its jackets.  At the beginning of this post you can see the original cover, illustrated by Ms. Konigsburg herself.  Is it just me, or did authors do their own covers a lot more in the past?  The GiverHarriet the SpyThe Hobbit.  Now this.  Maybe that’s the secret to attaining "classic" status, folks.  Konigsburg’s publishers have always been loath to let go of the original image.  It leads to some interesting changes.  Watch the slow process of updating.  First the kids became real and then . . . :

6 Top 100 Childrens Novels (#5)

mixedupfiles Top 100 Childrens Novels (#5)

frankweiler 2 Top 100 Childrens Novels (#5)

Mixed Up Files Book Top 100 Childrens Novels (#5)

Fascinating, eh?  By the end they finally get inside the place.  And then there was this other jacket:

Basil E Frankweiler Top 100 Childrens Novels (#5)


It’s easy to forget about the film.  For one thing, the original unwieldy title would never have fit on a marquee, so they renamed it The Hideaways.  Ingrid Bergman played Mrs. Frankweiler.  I admit that I was a little surprised to see that the trailer was available on YouTube.


It has also been referenced in films like The Royal Tenenbaums. Wes Anderson has since said that this scene is a direct homage. You can find it at 3:40 in this clip.


Answer to the Quiz Question:
The E.L. stands for Elaine Lobl.



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Elizabeth Bird About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently New York Public Library's Youth Materials Collections Specialist. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of NYPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.

Comments

  1. Jim (Teacherninja) says:

    Loved that book as a kid.

    I never saw it, but there was a 1995 TV movie with Lauren Bacall as well.

  2. P366P says:

    Guess I underestimated this one – I had it at #9 on my list. We read this in 5th grade then traveled to the Met on a field trip. We also watched the 1995 TV movie as a class.

  3. Amy says:

    This is yet another one I can’t believe I left off my list. A ridiculous omission.

  4. Terry Doherty says:

    This is one of those “I remember where I was when I read this book.” The summer of … a lady never reveals her age, but I’ll just say it the original cover. And I remember being fascinated by automats and trying to find them in every public place we went.

  5. Sharon says:

    Yay! Doubtless to be the last book on my list to make it, and I’m thrilled it made it so high. I so wanted to be Claudia when I was young (and still a little bit today), and wanted to go on an adventure of self-discovery. Not to mention that she taught me to hide out in bathrooms without being caught. A useful skill indeed.

  6. Sam B. says:

    I was sad not to vote for this – you know, one of those silly self-imposed rules to only vote for one title per author. E.L. should have gotten a special pass because she has written so many great ones.

  7. rockinlibrarian says:

    I too underestimated this, although I expected it to be Up High (always knew it would make the top TWENTY at least)– I’ve been expecting it to show up for the past two weeks or so! Every time another title popped up that I was SURE was more popular than this nowadays (or in general, Anne of Green Gables I’m talking to you), I got really confused! After every post I’d rearrange my predictions, starting with “TOMORROW will be Mixed-up Files…!” But I see there’s loads of #1 votes on this, so maybe it’s not so much POPULARITY as PURE PASSION.

    I also scope out furniture displays in museums for livability potential…

  8. Susan says:

    Happy to see this one in the top 5! Like Claudia, I always knew that if I ran away, it wouldn’t be to live in the woods (snakes, bugs and no indoor plumbing…ewww!).

    This is the last of my choices I expect to see on the list…I appear to have peculiar tastes! Three I didn’t really have much hope for, but I was surprised that (speaking of museums) Eleanor Cameron’s lovely Court of the Stone Children didn’t make it into the 100.

  9. Mandaladreamer says:

    I read this book out loud to our then homeschooled kids on a road trip to New York, so they would know what they were seeing when we saw the fountain with the coins in it. (We also went on pilgrimage to see the painting of Eloise at the Plaza Hotel.)
    I have no idea if they remember that, but just making that effort testifies to my love for this book!

  10. Connie says:

    The word “perfect,” I believe, belongs much more to today’s entry than yesterday’s … Konigsburg was one of the first authors I ever heard speak after becoming immersed in this field – at the Fall Festival of Children’s Books in Pittsburgh. It was years and years ago, but I still remember her talk, comparing writing to art (line drawing as plot, color as characterization, etc.) and I was blown away by her intelligence, humor, and out-of-the-box thinking. You can find a version of that speech in her wonderful volume, TalkTalk: A Children’s Book Author Speaks to Grown-Ups.

    And I couldn’t disagree more with Perry Nodelman about this one … what child doesn’t long for a mysterious, older person who will understand and appreciate him/her? I would let that person narrate MY story!

  11. RM1(SS) (ret) says:

    We’re planning to visit the Met sometime next week, while the girls are out of school; it’s been several years since we were last there. (Our last few visits to NYC were to see the AMNH.) The fountain, alas, has been gone for some years. 8(

    This was the first Newbery I read because it was a Newbery – saw a review of it in the paper shortly after the award was announced, and it sounded interesting. Excellent book – can’t believe I left it off my original top-ten list!

    I predicted it at #4….

  12. miriam says:

    Okay, I’m stumped, what’s going to be #1? I’ve been figuring this or The Giver, but clearly I am Wrong.

  13. Miriam says:

    Um, Betsy darling, the automat you link to is actually in the East Village, not Brooklyn.

    I still say field trip.

  14. Beth says:

    I predicted this in the top 10, though mostly based on reputation/comments. Unbelievably I’ve never read it, though I think I will need to remedy that soon! I chuckled over all the mention of automats though. I learned about those in Trixie Belden and the Mystery of the Blinking Eye, which I see was referenced above as well.

    My big “can’t miss” four are still unnamed. Could it be that they will be the last four? Not holding my breath, but that would be joyous!

  15. Mandaladreamer says:

    Miriam, A Wrinkle in Time will be number one. (At least I’m hoping so!)

  16. rosten18 says:

    I would like to respectfully disagree with Mandaladreamer. Speaking as one of the kids who would have been on that trip to New York, I’m pretty sure it never happened! Aside from the fact that I don’t remember it, I also don’t recall ever seeing any pictures of the trip. Suspicious to say the least. :)

  17. Maggi says:

    Just fascinating. I am one of those (un)fortunate folks who did not discover Konigsburg until I was an adult. I still have several to read. I think they are presents I will give myself throughout my life.

  18. Sondy says:

    I read MIXED-UP FILES as a kid but didn’t really like it. Perhaps wrong age or perhaps I was appalled they broke rules? (What an annoying kid I must have been!) However, if my husband had voted on his top ten favorite children’s novels, I’m sure he would have included this. Though he did leave his copy behind (for our kids?) when he left me. I’ll have to reread it. I think I’d like it more now.

    I’m pleased with how well I did on predicting the order of the Top Ten titles. Not perfect, alas, but my main error was forgetting how many males voted in the poll and putting ANNE OF GREEN GABLES as Number One on my list. (Now I’m sure it’s going to be CHARLOTTE’S WEB, which was what I was convinced of right until the day I voted.)

  19. Jennifer Schultz says:

    Wow, this is great! We’re getting down to the wire now.

    BTW-thanks SO MUCH for telling us about the Scholastic Fall preview. It was terrific!

  20. Maggie says:

    How could any title other than Charlotte’s Web be number 1 followed by Wrinkle in Time at the number 2 spot? I think we might see Harry Potter again on the list as well.

    Yes, I agree the Scholastic preview was awesome. Andrea Davis Pinkney singing! Skype interview with Lisa Yee. Plus David Levithan who must make editorial meetings a joy…bet John Mason was holding his breath on that one though it looked like everything was videotaped in advance. Couldn’t find the Odetta book or the George Washington book in our vendor database though. Love knowing in advance what the editors think will be the best in their Fall lineup.

  21. DeAnn says:

    I sense shockers ahead… there are SIX books left I thought for sure would be top ten, and there are only FOUR spots left?!! At least this book made it… whew! I didn’t remember that about Donnell… I need to re read the book now. I used to work there too!

  22. Angela says:

    I know – there are too many good books left and too few spots! I wish Harry Potter had been counted as one book just as all the Nancy Drew votes were counted towards book #1 in that series. It doesn’t look like Stuart Little or Cricket in Times Square, etc. will make the top 5. I predict Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone; Wrinkle in Time; Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe; and Charlotte’s Web for the final spots (thought I would love to be plesantly surprised).

  23. Angela says:

    Last line was supposed to read “though I would love to be pleasantly surprised”.

  24. mia c says:

    When talking about this book with a college friend all we could do was shout “Baloney? Balogna!” over and over. Definitely in my top 5!

  25. DaNae says:

    Since this list began its slow descent, oh so long ago, I’ve been trying to read, or reread all the books that I haven’t visited recently enough to be embedded in memory lobe. Not long ago I finished My Side of the Mountain. Wouldn’t that runaway book along with this runaway book be a great pairing? Afterwards votes could be taken as to whether the reader would rather be tree or antique dwellers. Me, I’d rather forage for change than edible vegetation.

  26. Genevieve says:

    Mia: Baloney! :) I love that part. Claudia and Jamie’s conversations are the most fun part of the book.

    I also remember Claudia trying to lull herself to sleep: “Claudia thought now of hushed and quiet words: glide, fur, banana, peace.” I always laughed at ‘banana.’

  27. Mandaladreamer says:

    Rosten18, I hope I sorted that out for you. You were pretty young, but the story seemed to keep everyone mesmerized through New York City traffic.

  28. Melissa ZD says:

    So….is anybody 6 for 6 for titles all in the right order???

    I am realizing that we are going to get to #2 on Friday and have to WAIT for #1 on Monday. Although I guess #1 will be obvious when we see #2? Unless there is a ringer that will knock me dead to the floor?

  29. Jennifer Schultz says:

    Oooh, a cliffhanger ending for the poll.

  30. rams says:

    Leave us not be so dismissive of About the B’nai Bagels, which I for one prefer to Files. So shoot me. Of course, I’ll always take character over plot, and the B’nai mother is one of the great characters in literature, talking to the kitchen light fixture and wanting they should feel rotten when they lose. Bless her, and bless E.L.K. (Shoot, my next choice would be A Fine Taste for Scarlet and Miniver. Cranky, c’est moi.)

  31. Fuse #8 says:

    Angela, votes were only given to the first book in a series if the voter did not specify a specific volume. So there are many Nancy Drew titles that got other votes (as you will see when I post EVERYTHING that got voted on) just as there were lots of Harry Potters that got other votes.

    And you’re right, Miriam, that automat is in the East Village. I thought I saw the word DUMBO in there somewhere. I’ll change it soon.

  32. Beth says:

    Angela, the four titles you listed are the four I predicted would be the top four! And I still hope they will. At this point I think they might come in this order (counting down from 4 to 1): Lion, Wrinkle, Sorcerer’s Stone, Charlotte’s Web.

  33. klonghall says:

    I loved this book when I read it in 4th grade (around 1978). I probably read it a few times after that, and still loved it. But, here’s the thing about that book…kids today, at least the ones who live around me in suburban Atlanta…don’t like it, and don’t get its appeal. I was shocked and dismayed when I discovered that! It was added to our 4th grade book club list this year, and I haven’t heard one student or parent-leader who enjoyed reading it. (And we have about 8 4th grade classes, so that’s a lot of kids…) I’m pleased that I chose to do a different book (after a book blogger tipped me off that this book doesn’t do well with our modern-day kids), and every other Book Club mom wished she had made the same decision. Sometimes it pays to do a little web research before choosing a Book Club Selection…

    So, I’m wondering if any actual children voted for this book, or just us “old” bookworms?

  34. Genevieve says:

    Klonghall, my 4th grader read it this year and loved it.

  35. Susan says:

    rams, don’t feel alone….I too, loved B’nai Bagels and Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver. My other top favorite would be Father’s Arcane Daughter…I just HATE that they’ve retitled it My Father’s Daughter….they’ve ruined the way that the word “arcane” fits into the ending, with an almost “easter egg” type goodie for those who know (or care to look up) the etymology. (Yes, I am a word geek :0).

  36. JLD says:

    Klonghall, my 5th grader read this book in 3rd grade and loved it. She’s read it a good 3 or 4 more times. This, of course, thrills me, as it’s my favorite book too.

    My predictions for the last four match those mentioned above: Socerer’s Stone, LW&TW, A Wrinkle in Time, and Charlotte’s Web. What a surprise it will be if one of those doesn’t make it. I’m so enjoying this list.

  37. Fuse #8 says:

    Insofar as I can tell, no child voted for this book. Or, if they did, it was in small numbers.

  38. rockinlibrarian says:

    That’s what I thought. I mean, about the popularity of this with kids in general nowadays. I thought it had definitely gone down relative to other books– both old books that have stayed popular and new books that have arrived to compete. That was why I kept expecting this to show up lower on the list than #5!

  39. Sarah says:

    LOVED this book as a kid. I actually had it on tape from the library and would listen to it over and over before I went to bed. I listened to it so much, I had parts of it memorized. I cried when I watched the awful TV movie in 95-my favorite book was ruined! I read this again last semester for my children’s lit class and it still hadn’t lost it’s charm.

  40. Els Kushner says:

    Susan, I LOVE Father’s Arcane Daughter. In fact, I voted for it, even though I was certain it wouldn’t make it into the top 100. I love it that much. Didn’t know they’d changed the name– how awful!

    A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver is my next favorite. And then maybe The Second Mrs. Giaconda.

    Incidentally, my 4th grader was also crazy about From the Mixed-Up Files. I should note, though, that 1) she didn’t read it herself; I read it to her, and 2) she is the child of two librarians, is being raised on a steady diet of old and/or weird books, and also loves E. Nesbit. So she might not be representative.

    (She does, however, live in the suburbs. And, considering her addiction to Club Penguin and her repeated insistence that she NEEDS an iPod, it’s pretty fair to call her a modern-day child. )

  41. Genevieve says:

    The kiddo says that the kids in his class who are reading Mixed-Up Files like it a lot. Just more samples for you.

  42. marjorie says:

    Chiming in: For whatever it’s worth, my 3rd grader also loves it! She was thrilled and horrified by the notion of scooping coins out of a wishing fountain. (She lives in the East Village…which means she could tell you, sadly, that Bamn! the automat on St Marks Place, closed last summer. Dunno why its decomposing web site is still up.)

    Charlotte’s Web FTW!

  43. ZackRock says:

    That’s not Meg Hunt’s illustration! Meg Hunt started the great website Picture Book Report where that illustration comes from, but the artist in question is actually Phil McAndrew.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling#4 The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis#5 From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg#6 Holes by Louis Sachar#7 The Giver by Lois Lowry#8 The Secret Garden by [...]

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