Every Saturday we hope to share with you our thoughts on reading and books. We thought that it would be good practice to reflect on our reading lives and our thoughts about reading in general. While on occasion, we would feature a few books in keeping with this, there would be a few posts where we will just write about our thoughts on read-alouds, libraries, reading journals, upcoming literary conferences, books that we are excited about, and just book love miscellany in general.
I deliberately waited until the right moment to share my thoughts about this middle grade novel, waiting for our current reading theme on MysteREADventure – since this Newbery Medalist has that right amount of mystery and detective story rolled into a readable package.
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler was our book for August in my adult book club Saturday Night Out for Book Geeks and we also discussed this novel in my book club at the Jurong West Public Library with young readers.
It has that kind of timeless quality to it, really. I reviewed this novel back in 2010 and gushed about it. I remembered examining it from the lenses of a gifted educator and perceiving the characters as precocious children. This is such a well-loved novel.
A day after I met up with my book club, I figured out what was nagging at me when I re-read the novel. I posted this exact same sentiment in our Facebook Group Page – which I would like to share with you now.
One of the frameworks that I teach in my higher degree class is the critical multicultural analysis framework which asks questions of representation and whose voices are silenced in a narrative. One of the key things disturbing me about the novel was the deliberate withholding of information by Mrs Basil E Frankweiler. I suppose it doesn’t appeal to my sense of democratizing information and the thought that it normalizes (and arguably even rationalizes) how only the privileged elite has access to information that can change the face of knowledge (or in this particular case the art scene) as we know it. It isn’t so much whether it is right or wrong but that it is unquestioningly perceived as right from a position of privilege. And the notion of secrets as being held only by a few wealthy elite who are seemingly-justifiably to be in the know and who have the power to manipulate access to knowledge. And in a similar vein it also somewhat explains (but may also call into question) the entire POV used in the narrative – but then again the title indicates all this to be from the mixed up files of a very eccentric old lady. I just wonder what Jamie thinks about all this if told from, say, his perspective.
What are your thoughts about this, dear readers? Have you tried examining this particular book using a critical multicultural lens?