One of my favorite all-time children’s books is From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg (aka Elaine L. Konigsburg.) Originally published in 1967, the story of Claudia Kincaid, a girl who has decided to run away from home, and who chooses the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City as her new “home away from home,” always captured my imagination. I mean what child hasn’t thought of running away from home at some point and doing it in style? This book has all that and more.
To make sure the book felt authentic, Konisburg scouted the museum herself in 1966, using her own children posed at various places and observing the routines of the security guards. (The Met is notorious for its carefully guarded secrecy so all her research had to be done without attracting too much attention.) With the museum’s permission, Ms. Konigsburg was allowed to publish in the book a guide to the museum map based on the visitor’s guides available to all.
The book was so well received that E. L. Konigsburg is the only author to date to have won two Newbery awards in the same year: From The Mixed-Up Files won the Newbery Medal for excellence in American children’s lit in 1968, and her first published book, also published in 1967 (Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth) won a Newbery Honor that same year. She also holds the distinction of being the only author to have won a 2nd Newbery Medal 29 years after her first (for her book The View From Saturday) – the longest span of time between awards to date.
Konigsburg is also one of those rare authors who also illustrated her own books, including doing the original artwork for Mixed-Up Files. When you’re looking for a great book for you or your child to read, this one should definitely make your list.