Once upon a time, I was a small girl who was more influenced by the books I read than the people around me. I have a large amount of my personality and foundational values thanks to the lessons that these tomes taught me.
Take, for example, my deep desire to adopt older children – I promise you that idea first took root as I read the entire Boxcar Children series. I just let people believe that it was because of Angels in the Outfield.
Or my very serious attitude toward recycling and finding new sources of renewable energy – that’s due to my love for Bill Peet’s The Wump World. That ending to such a precious book has haunted me for years.
There are many authors who I owe my outlook on life to, and as I get older, more and more of them begin to reach the end of their lives, leaving their legacy in literature as they move on to whatever comes next. This weekend, it was Mrs. E. L. Konigsburg who headed off into the great unknown, so like many others, I have decided to take a minute to thank her for all of the lessons that she taught me over the years.
In From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Mrs. Konigsburg planted a seed that would lead to my never-ending fascination with the Met and museums in general. I spend hours and hours in them, because not only do I have to learn about the exhibits and appreciate the art, I must also decide where I would live if I ran away to this particular one.
She showed me that money isn’t everything, and sometimes you may need to let go of something for the greater good. She also showed me that even when you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, you should keep searching for your answers. Never give up on something you set your mind to, and life will reward you.
I should also note that it showed me that if you’re underappreciated at home, you can just run away to somewhere educational and it will all work out. As a kid, I believed that I was obviously much smarter than Claudia and would be better at this endeavor. I was wrong. We’ll leave it at that.
The View from Saturday taught me not to judge people for their outward appearance or their biggest mistake. That we are all more than the weakest part of ourselves. It also helped encourage me – somehow just before I would need it most – to never be ashamed of who I was or my intelligence. And, of course, it reminded me that manners are never, ever overrated.
Plus, it started a resurgence of my love of puzzles.
And as late as 2000, Silent to the Bone taught me that things are not always what they seem. Especially when it comes to children and grey areas. People are always willing to place blame and believe the worst in people. It’s just easier that way. It takes a truly strong person to resist those urges and find the deeper truth.
No, this isn’t some long, exhaustive list. But these lessons, new or reinforced, are so terribly valuable that they outweigh a list of a hundred shallow lessons (okay, not so much the puzzle thing, but you know…).
That’s why, in honor of a greatly undervalued author, I’m making my novel study for my 6th graders this year based on one of those 3 books. I’ll give them synopsis choices, let them debate, and by Monday morning, we’ll embark on out latest journey through the pages.
So thanks, Mrs. Konigsburg, for all your wisdom. And for inspiring me to look for a novel that’s deeper than its entertainment value for my students.
The title quote is directly from the text of From the Mixed-Up Files…