Recommended Readalikes: From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

Photo by Tom Hermans on Unsplash

Where do we even begin this week? From the solemn experience of running away from home, to the magic of museums, to the liminal space between childhood and young adulthood, there were so many themes to choose from. As always, we did our best to identify books that would include at least some of those themes and give you new possibilities to delve into. If you’re a young reader who enjoyed From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, you might enjoy the following books:

  • Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald
    Hailed as a mixture of From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and Chasing Vermeer (secret bonus recommendation), Under the Egg is an attention-grabbing, page-turn that you won’t want to miss. Thirteen-year-old Theodora Tenpenny is struggling to hang onto her family’s townhouse and support her unstable mother after the death of her grandfather. With just $463 to the family name, finding what appears to be a genuine Renaissance masterpiece under one of his paintings seems too good to be true. But is it? Her grandfather was a security guard for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Could it be that the painting was stolen? With the help of some new friends, she’s determined to find out.
  • Doll Bones by Holly Black
    If you want a classic running away from home narrative but make it horror, try Doll Bones. There are some that would argue that dolls are inherently creepy but even if you don’t belong to that school of thought, the doll in this story is inarguably spooky. Zach, Poppy, and Alice are being pushed to grow up and set aside the make believe games of their younger years. However, before they can do that, they have to leave home with a doll linked to a possibly malevolent ghost and follow her instructions about putting her to rest. Will she let them go after they do her bidding?
  • Wonderstruck: a Novel in Words and Pictures by Brian Selznick
    Ben has lost his mother and hearing in one ear. Rose never knew her mother and was born deaf. Told through alternating chapters of prose (Ben) and black-and-white illustrations (Rose), readers are led through two distinct timelines set fifty years apart. When twelve-year-old Ben discovers new information about the father he never knew, he leaves his home in Minnesota to search for him in New York. Similarly, twelve-year-old Rose leaves New Jersey to follow her obsession with a New York movie starlet. Both follow similar paths that lead them to the same places, ending with what they wanted all along: a sense of belonging.

Teens and adults who have outgrown running away, but not their inner demons, might try some of these dark titles:

  • Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
    Dropping out. Running away. Jumping from dead-end job to dead-end job. Trying to forget the memories. It’s been a rough life for Galaxy “Alex” Stern who, at twenty-years-old, is the single survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. But when she wakes up in a hospital bed with an offer to attend Yale University on a full ride scholarship, it seems like her luck might finally be turning around. Right? If it wasn’t for the Lethe House, the house sworn to guide and manage the actions of the other eight houses, it would be. Soon Alex finds herself drowning in ghosts, occult rituals, murder, and more terror than she bargained for. This is the Dark Academia readalike you’ve been dreaming of and the first projected novel in the Alex Stern series.
  • The Diviners by Libba Bray
    For readers who can’t get enough of the Big Apple setting, here is a magic themed, historical fiction story set in the vibrant 1920s: Evangeline has a dangerous, supernatural gift that she is trying to keep under wraps after leaving her hometown and starting afresh in New York City. With her uncle also wrapped up with the occult, she finds herself pulled into a terrifying murder muster that only her gift might be able to solve.
  • Are You Listening? by Tillie Walden
    We want to be up front and confess that this graphic novel is less of a plot filled story and more of an experience. The author of other heartbreaking graphic novels like i love this part, On a Sunbeam, and A City Inside, Tillie Walden writes and illustrates moments that capture the essence of an emotional liminal space. Teenage runaway Bea runs into twenty-something-year-old Lou in a run down store in the middle of West Texas. After accepting a ride from the older woman, the two bond and connect over past trauma and shared experiences. When Bea befriends and captures a strange cat with seemingly magical powers, the two set off to return it to its owner while the landscape dissolves into fever dream colors. Readers will set this book down feeling incomplete, potentially let down, but different in a good way.
  • We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
    Like Claudia and Jamie, the characters in Shirley Jackson’s gothic tale are living in a big dramatic museum house and have fled from their previous lives. The setting is rural instead of that of a bustling city and the tone is somber. Despite the differences in the stories, the themes of family and isolation from the outside world are strong in both. If you are dazzled by the idea about the Metropolitan Museum of Art, why not try a beautiful, albeit spooky castle next?

If you don’t have time for a whole book but were inspired enough by the Mixed Up Files journey that we all went on to want to read a little bonus material, we’ve got you covered. As was discussed on this week’s episode, here is the link to the Claudia Kincaid: Queer Feminist Icon thread that Heather mentioned.

This blog is created by Hannah and Ella in conjunction with the These Books Made Me podcast, a Prince George’s County Memorial Library System production. Check out the corresponding episode, From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you normally listen to podcasts. Or you can simply click on the link to the episode to listen.

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These Books Made Me is a podcast about the literary heroines who shaped our childhoods. @PGCMLS

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These Books Made Me

These Books Made Me

These Books Made Me is a podcast about the literary heroines who shaped our childhoods. @PGCMLS

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