Goodbye, Mrs. Frankweiler

Although I had free run of my dad’s bookshelves and the adult section of the public library when I was a kid, I certainly tucked into my share of kidlit as well. Through my grade school library, I dove into the old Bobbs-Merrill “Childhood of Famous Americans” fictionalized bios, and discovered series like the Danny Dunn and Horace Higby novels (sf/adventure and sf/sports/comedy, respectively). And of course, I got some of my first exposure to mystery fiction through the Three Investigators series, as well as the adventures of a certain renaissance pig (about whom I’ve written elsewhere.)

But while I haven’t read any of the adventures of Danny, Horace, or Jupiter Jones in recent years, there are certain books to which I’ve returned over the years, both on my own and with the Spawn. These would be books by folks I would see as the usual suspects: Madeleine L’Engle’s “Time Quartet”, Lloyd Alexander’s Time Cat, Louise Fitzhugh’s Harriet the Spy … and the work of E.L. Konigsburg. When I was a grade schooler, I read From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and decided that one of the coolest things in the world would be to live in a museum. I probably was led to the book by commercials for the 1973 movie, which I never have seen* — couldn’t afford it then, and just never got around to watching as an adult. But I loved the book.

That led me to more of her work, including Jennifer, Hecate, MacBeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth (which finished just behind Mixed-Up Files for 1968’s Newbery Award — the only time one author has taken the two top positions in the same year.) Konigsburg would win another Newbery in 1997, with The View from Saturday, making her one of only 5 multiple winners, and the one with the longest run between wins at 29 years. The Spawn came to her work through this last book, but I was more than happy to help her backtrack.

The NYT now reports that Mrs. Konigsburg has died at the age of 83. May she find peace and be remembered with gratitude for some terrific stories that have crossed a couple of generations with more to come. Thanks, ma’am.

*Wiki insists that the film’s title was the same as the book’s, and that the film was retitled The Hideaways in video release. I am morally certain that my 7- to 8-year-old self knew of the film by the latter title, and was nonplussed by the fact that the book had a different name. Hmph, I say.


About profmondo

Dad, husband, mostly free individual, medievalist, writer, and drummer. "Gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche."
This entry was posted in Education, Family, Literature. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Goodbye, Mrs. Frankweiler

  1. Andrew Stevens says:

    I am 100% that the film was known as From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. I remember the movie well and have never heard of the title The Hideaways until this post. Perhaps you saw the home video in a store as a young ‘un or are transplanting a more recent memory into your childhood?

  2. Andrew Stevens says:

    By the way, I also believe it was a serious error to change the title. Can’t remember if I read the book or saw the film first. What I am absolutely certain of, though, is that the title was what was so intriguing. The Hideaways is just dull.

    I too was a Three Investigators fan, though I have no idea how well they’d hold up now. I imagine I would cast a dimmer eye on Alfred Hitchcock showing up in them although I am now an Alfred Hitchcock fanatic. Curiously, I know this is because of Hitchcock’s quality rather than simple nostalgia because I lost interest in Hitchcock from the ages of 10 (my childhood interest was in Hitchcock the icon rather than Hitchcock the director) until about age 25 before rediscovering him and, for the first time, realizing what a brilliant director he was.

  3. Javahead says:

    I hadn’t even been aware there *was* a movie version – comes of living out in the sticks, I guess (we were about 20 miles from the closest theater, and went to the movies about once every couple of years). I remember the book quite well, though – I was 8 or 9 when it came out, and it was both easily approachable and a window into an alien world. Huge urban museums! Kids able to travel distances beyond bike range on their own! And an adventure that was actually plausible enough that I could believe a clever kid *could* pull it off.

    I still remember the illustration of them bathing in the fountain while gathering coins – the two small figures calmly going about cleaning up in the midst of a huge public space reminiscent of a Roman bathhouse. And the small shock of recognition I got over two decades later when I first visited the Met myself.

  4. profmondo says:

    Thanks, Andrew — guess I’m just slipping into my dotage. Maybe I saw it in the Muncie Public Library video section while scouting for something for the Spawn to watch in her very early years. (And that’s why I’ve seen far too many of the Land Before Time vids.)

    • Andrew Stevens says:

      Memory’s a funny thing. Your memories of the book are centered on your childhood, so your brain could easily store a brand new memory connected to it right next to that cluster of memories and, before you know it, you think the new memory happened back then. When you think about it, if the movie had been called The Hideaways and you were prompted to read the book from watching commercials for the film, how would you have known what book it was based on?

      Javahead: I have a vivid memory of that illustration as well.

      • profmondo says:

        Well, my guess would have been that one of my teachers or the school librarian would have steered me that way. But I suppose it’s moot.

  5. The Nerd Girl says:

    When I was in third or fourth grade the super-cool librarian at my school, who knew how much I loved to read, pulled the library’s copy of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler down from the shelf, handed it to me and said “I think you’ll enjoy this.” And I did. (I also remember it was inscribed to the school by E.L. Konigsburg, which I thought was extra-cool.) I’ve always had a soft spot for that book, and had much the same reaction you did to it, and it’s why this news makes me sad.

    And regarding the movie version, while I wasn’t aware of The Hideaways connection, I do remember the 1995 made-for-TV movie with Lauren Bacall, which I remember seeing one lazy Saturday afternoon more than a dozen years ago.

    (Sorryl for taking this long to catch up on your blog, but…gradeapalooza and all that, y’know.)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s