When beloved children’s author E.L. Konigsburg died a couple weeks ago it hit me: My kids haven’t read From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.
I need to fix this!
In 1968 Konigsburg not only won the Newbery Medal, but her book Jennifer, Hecate, MacBeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth received a Newbery Honor award. Kind of a red-letter year for her. But this great author was no flash in the pan. She went on to write 16 children’s books, illustrate 3 picture books, and WIN THE NEWBERY MEDAL AGAIN in 1997. Not too shabby, E.L.
But it was her first winner that was one of my favorites when I as a kid. I loved mysteries and fantasized about going on important adventures just like Claudia and Jamie Kincaid in From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Sigh. Remember boys named Jamie and the belief that you would one day discover something astounding?
If you haven’t read this book, please go to the library right now. I’m jealous of what lies ahead of you. But for those of us who cut our reading teeth on great children’s lit, let’s do our kids a favor and read them our favorite Newbery books. Here are some oldies-but-goodies to get you started!
Your Favorite Newbery Books 1 of 13
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler 1968 2 of 13
Wouldn't it be cool to run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and secretly live there with your kid brother who has a bunch of money saved up? Yes. Yes it would be cool.
The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle 1923 3 of 13
When you were little did you ever pretend to go on incredible journeys to exotic locations with fanciful animals that you could talk to and take care of? ONLY EVERY DAY.
Invincible Louisa: The Story of the Author of Little Women 1934 4 of 13
A great, true, book for kids about a female role model who writes about a female role model written by a girl? Yeah, Cornelia Meigs just punched misogyny in the face 79 years ago.
Caddie Woodlawn 1936 5 of 13
Like Laura Ingalls Wilder, but way more bad A.
Johnny Tremain 1944 6 of 13
Your kid doesn't want to make his bed? Tell him to try silversmithing with a mangled hand. Now tell me me clearing the table is hard. You're not hard core unless you live hard core, Tremain-style. Mic drop.
Charlotte’s Web 1953 7 of 13
Technically a runner-up not a winner, but if you haven't read this book out loud to your children, voice-cracking at the end as the lump in your throat swells and chokes you, I'm calling DCFS on you. Endearingly, EB White himself had to go through 17 takes when recording the audio book without his voice cracking or crying when Charlotte dies. YOU THINK YOU'RE BETTER THAN EB WHITE? You're not. No one is.
Miracles on Maple Hill 1957 8 of 13
If this book simply described the charming process of boiling giant vats of sap to turn it into syrup it would be worth it. But it also deals with a father's triumph over PTSD after WWII so, win.
My Side of the Mountain 1960 9 of 13
There was a time—a simpler time— when running away and living in a hollowed out tree on the side of a mountain was actually an option. Of course, you can't do that now-a-days. . . or can you? At any rate, when you tell your kids to go outside and play, this book is what they should be playing.
A Wrinkle in Time 1963 10 of 13
Do your kids know what a tesseract is? I still remember my 3rd grade teacher describing an ant walking along the edge of a piece of paper. Fold the paper over and the end can step across. That's kind of how you "wrinkle" time. Just read the book. It'll blow your mind.
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH 1972 11 of 13
What's wrong with kids today? I'll tell you: They don't know or care about Mrs. Frisby. Make them care.
The Westing Game 1979 12 of 13
This book was my first favorite book. You like mystery? You like intrigue? You like clues and surprises? Ladies and gentlemen I implore you: Get your hands on this book. It is seriously the best.
The View from Saturday 1997 13 of 13
And E.L. Konigsburg does it again with this one! I haven't read it yet. Are you jealous that I get to read this book for the first time? I'm off to the libra