Old & New: From the Mixed Up Files…and Under the Egg May 28, 2014Posted by ccbooks in Book Reviews.
First published in 1967 and winner of the 1968 Newbery Medal, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg is one of the most celebrated middle-grade books ever. A compelling mix of mystery and coming of age story, it has prompted many young readers (myself included) to dream of running away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Siblings Claudia and Jamie see a statue of an angel and become obsessed with discovering whether or not it was actually created by Michelangelo. They stare at the statue and do research at the library but it takes a visit to the mysterious Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler to finally satisfy their curiosity as well as help them learn a few lessons about secrets and growing up.
Many recent books with a mystery or an art theme have been marketed as “for fans of From the Mixed-Up Files..” but none I think fit the bill quite as well as Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald. Beyond simply the structure of a mystery and the themes of lost art, they are both books with resourceful protagonists who when faced with challenges, take matters into their own hands. While Claudia Kincaid in Konigsburg’s book is researching the angels statue for emotional reasons, Theodora in Under the Egg is concerned only with the practical. Her mother is fragile and absentminded, leaving her to try and keep the household going on the $463 her grandfather left behind. Food and electricity are her priorities and she has no clue where the ‘treasure’ that her grandfather promised her might be. That is, until she accidentally spills a bottle of rubbing alcohol on a painting of an egg and discovers what might be a Renaissance masterpiece. But questions abound: Was the painting stole it? Is it from the Met where Theo’s grandfather was a guard? Who painted it? Who is the picture of? With her new neighbor Bodhi (the daughter of movie stars) and the help of various New York eccentrics–including some great librarians–Theo sets out to solve the mystery of the painting as well as the true story of her family’s treasure. Give either of these titles to readers interested in mysteries, art and how they often combine to make a great story.