From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler review

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2002. 978-0-689-85322-7

Synopsis: Claudia Kincaid is the oldest of four children and doesn’t feel appreciated, so she decides to run away to somewhere. But not just anywhere – somewhere comfortable, warm, and beautiful: The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. She decides to take her second youngest brother Jamie with her, since he has money and a transistor radio. While in the museum, the two view a statue believed to be sculpted by Michelangelo and Claudia becomes fascinated with the statue and the mystery of its maker. She then decides that she will find the statue’s secret and in doing so, become a changed person and a personal heroine.

Why I picked it up: Because these two characters actually run away like so many kids wish they could…and to a museum!

Why I finished it: Claudia is intent upon being different when she returns home to her family and this desire strikes a chord with both younger and older readers. Finding a sense of self can be a difficult task, and Claudia is sure that by running away and teaching her family to appreciate her will do the trick. Her ability to carefully plan where and when she and Jamie will run away also struck a chord with me, since I have this need to be organized and keep things in order. But I think what really makes the reader keep reading (besides wanting to know what will happen next and the suspense of whether the two Kincaids will be caught by the museum security guards), is that the story is trans-generational, despite the fact that it was originally written in the 1960s (when it was no doubt easier to run away to a museum). The story, the characters, and the humor seem fresh every time and it will likely continue to be loved for many generations.

Other related materials: The Hideaways (movie); From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (TV movie); The View from Saturday by E.L. Koingsburg; Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh; The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks; Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt; Holes by Louis Sachar; My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George; James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

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