A Reading Experience

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My role as stay at home aunt has taken on many new facets in recent weeks. With schools moving to distance learning, and my two local nieces spending several days a week with me, my time is spent re-visiting some of my favorite books from childhood.

We just read From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler together. I still like this story, and my older niece liked it so much, she put it in her bag and took it home. This was my favorite book when I was in third grade, and now my third grader niece has taken it in as her own; how can I not be thrilled!

Claudia and Jamie’s adventure in 1960s New York was fun. These two young people may be a bit more mature than their present-day equivalents, but they were still kids making it work in a big city. These two kids were able to budget money, maneuver through the public transportation systems of a large city, and find inexpensive places to eat and do their laundry. All while hiding out undetected in a museum.

It was fun to read through the different parts of the museum. E and I had to pull out a book to figure out who Marie Antoinette was and why she was important (and why her bed would have been so comfortable). We did not need to look up Michelangelo thanks in part to a Magic Tree House installation. And she chose to do her ancient civilization project on Egypt in part because of our time with the mummies in the museum.

The framework of this story, older lady sharing the details with her lawyer, made it a good choice for reading out loud. As an adult, my voice did not distract from the story and reading with a 9-year-old made it so we could each have distinct parts in the story.

This story encompassed mystery, adventure, coming of age, and humor. It made for good reading for our experiment in home-schooling. The themes of independence, curiosity and perseverance were affirming and fun to talk about.

The language in this book was mature (not crass), but most of the vocabulary words were easily discovered using context clues. This book is set in the 1960s, so there were a few obsolete or out of favor activities; but for the most part, this book was easily accessible even to a 21st century child.

I loved this book as a child, and it warmed my heart to see the next generation embrace this story and love it like I did.

View all my reviews

The Changeling by Victor La Valle

This book was tagged by multiple people as a HORROR book.  I did not find it to be such.  I can see some elements of horror with the supernatural climax, but through the majority of the book, it could easily have been any other story of loss, family and love.  I found this title on the Tournament of Book’s longlist this year.  There were quite a number of interesting titles found there and this was no exception.

I adored the story of Apollo.  From his early entrepreneurial escapades, to his love of hunting books, to his self-confident mantra right through to his full accepting his role as husband and father.  The hunt for his son took so much of the passion he had cultivated in earlier parts of his life and the challenges he faced were like nothing he had ever known.  Who could have known there were so many eerie things in New York?

While I did not love the magical, otherworldly aspects of this father’s search for his missing son, I did find the emotional path to ring true.  This was a cleverly written love story and one man’s understanding of the life-changing power of parenthood.


Book Summary:

One man’s thrilling journey through an enchanted world to find his wife, who has disappeared after seemingly committing an unforgiveable act of violence, from the award-winning author of the The Devil in Silver and Big Machine.

Apollo Kagwa has had strange dreams that have haunted him since childhood. An antiquarian book dealer with a business called Improbabilia, he is just beginning to settle into his new life as a committed and involved father, unlike his own father who abandoned him, when his wife Emma begins acting strange. Disconnected and uninterested in their new baby boy, Emma at first seems to be exhibiting all the signs of post-partum depression, but it quickly becomes clear that her troubles go far beyond that. Before Apollo can do anything to help, Emma commits a horrific act—beyond any parent’s comprehension—and vanishes, seemingly into thin air.

Thus begins Apollo’s odyssey through a world he only thought he understood to find a wife and child who are nothing like he’d imagined. His quest begins when he meets a mysterious stranger who claims to have information about Emma’s whereabouts. Apollo then begins a journey that takes him to a forgotten island in the East River of New York City, a graveyard full of secrets, a forest in Queens where immigrant legends still live, and finally back to a place he thought he had lost forever. This dizzying tale is ultimately a story about family and the unfathomable secrets of the people we love. (from GoodReads book page).