Revisiting ‘The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler’ for its 50th anniversary

This year marks the 50th anniversary of E. L. Konigsburg’s classic YA novel, 1967’s From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, which won the 1968 Newbery Medal. I also recently read a very informative article from the always excellent Smithsonian Magazine online, “The True Story Behind Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and Her Mixed-Up Files.”

Screenshot from Smithsonian Magazine article

The article’s author, Patrick Sauer, aptly sums up how beloved this book remains:

“If visions of Claudia and Jamie bathing—and collecting lunch money—in the Met’s Fountain of Muses bring up fond childhood memories of your own, you’re among the legions of readers who grew up loving E.L. Konigsburg’s From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. The classic children’s book turns 50 in 2017, and the tale of the Kincaid siblings spending their days wandering about the paintings, sculptures and antiquities, and their nights sleeping in antique beds handcrafted for royalty, is as popular as ever. The 1968 Newbery Medal winner has never been out of print.”

The article then goes into the many inspirations behind the book and Konigsburg’s writing, including this sweet memory shared by her son Paul:

“When we were in grade school, Mom would write in the morning. When the three of us kids would come home for lunch, she would read what she wrote,” says Paul Konigsburg, 62. “If we laughed she kept it in. If not, she rewrote it.”

The article also mentions the 1973 film version of the book, also released under the title The Hideaways, which I wrote a post about almost two years ago on this blog. The film doesn’t feature a librarian, but it DOES shine a spotlight on the vital role of research, as well as libraries, both public and private.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot of public library scene in 'From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler' (1973)

Screenshot of public library scene in ‘From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler’ (1973)

Reel Librarians | Screenshot of public library scene in 'From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler' (1973)

Screenshot of private library scene in ‘From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler’ (1973)

As I wrote back in 2015 about the film’s version of the “mixed-up files” scene:

The scene in the film is different from the book, but it’s still fun to see a visual representation of all those “mixed-up files.” Although, of course, they’re not mixed-up at all. They files are quite logically organized, at least according to the logic of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

And I learned something new about the film from the Smithsonian article — that the 1973 film version was the first film ever shot inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art!

I also learned that last year, the Met produced and released a video tour called “Can We Talk About the Mixed-Up Files and the Met?”:

#MetKids—Can We Talk About the “Mixed-up Files” and The Met?” by The Met, Standard YouTube license

And finally, next week on July 13 and 15, in honor of the book’s 50th anniversary — and of course, the Met’s starring role in the book! — the Met will host special Art Trek family tours featuring several exhibits mentioned in the book that are still in the museum, including the mummy and the bronze cat in the Egyptian wing.

Have you ever been to the Met? Are you a fan of the book? Please leave a comment and share!

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One comment on “Revisiting ‘The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler’ for its 50th anniversary

  1. popegrutch says:

    I grew up on the other side of Central Park from the Met, and went there fairly often as a kid (not as often as the Museum of Natural History, which was on “my side” of the park). The first time I remember going was when I was assigned to do a project on Egypt during the Christmas break – and it turned out that the Egyptian Wing was under repair! I also remember that during the height of my interest in D&D I used to go to the section on Medieval Arms & Armor to try to figure out what a “Mace” or a “Halberd” were.
    I did read the book, though to be honest I don’t remember liking it any more than other kids’ books I read. I think I liked “Harriet the Spy,” which I read around the same time, better.

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