Saturday, May 26, 2007

Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and Her Mixed-Up Covers

I just blogged about the 1968 Newbery winner, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E.L. Konigsburg, over at The Newbery Project. It's a book that I actually remember reading as a child, and it was still great some thirty-plus years later. My copy (a 1977 edition, recently picked up for a quarter at the Saline District Library's monthly used book sales), had this cover:

Not terrible. The image of the kids in their pajamas hiding in the museum gives you the gist of the story.

But when I looked around for cover images, I saw the cover that I remembered from my childhood:

This cover has original artwork by the author on it - which fits well with all the wonderful illustrations in the book (until my recent re-read, I didn't realize that E.L. Konigsburg did the illustrations as well as the story. Damn, she's talented). It also doesn't have that plasticky seventies look to it, which I first noticed with the creepy mannequin-like people in the cover for Tales from Silver Lands.

Now why did the publishers go and change a perfectly good, classic cover? Did they think that one on top was better because it was more colorful? I was happy to see that the most recent edition retains more of the flavor of the original. Although I like the title font and placement better, I'm not sure that the image is really a great improvement, though:

I'm going to have to buy this edition, though, because my 70's paperback is crappy acidic paper that probably won't last the few more years until my daughter's old enough to read it, and I have to see the 2002 afterword from Mrs. E.L. Konigsburg.
It really is a great story.

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Phantom Scribbler said...

I had the top cover, growing up, and it was a revelation to finally see Konigsburg's drawing on the cover.

Did you ever see the movie version? It was mostly terrible -- very, very 70s -- but had Ingrid Bergman as Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, which made up for everything else.

Sandy D. said...

I had no idea there was a movie version until I started googling images looking for the book covers! I may have to check them out, even if they are terrible. Especially since Lauren Bacall plays Mrs. B.E.F. in another version.

landismom said...

We have the top cover, currently. I have to say, it is one of the pinnacles of my parenting experience that my daughter loves this book. We went to the Met last year, and she spent a lot of time looking for the places that Claudia hid. It was great fun.

Devra said...

I gotta share a really great moment I had with my son. He popped into the room and put a book in my hand and said "Mom, you gotta read this book. Here!' and I looked down and it was "From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler" How cool is it when your child recommends a book to a parent and it turns out it is a classic that the parent also loved but hadn't thought about in many many years?!!!

eq said...

Wow. This took me back! This was one of my favorite books as a child, and I must have read it at least a dozen times. Mine had the same cover that yours did, Sandy.

Julie said...

Oh wow, I remember that 70s cover too! The one we have now is the top one, of course. This book was one of my all-time favorites. Another one by ELK that I loved (and must reread one of these days) was A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver. It was about Eleanor of Aquitaine.