From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler is written by E. L. Konigsburg. It was published in 1967 by Atheneum. More info about Konigsburg can be found here.
“When Claudia decided to run away, she planned very carefully. She would be gone just long enough to teach her parents a lesson in Claudia appreciation. And she would go in comfort—she would live at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She saved her money, and she invited her brother Jamie to go, mostly because he was a miser and would have money.
Claudia was a good organizer and Jamie had some ideas, too; so the two took up residence at the museum right on schedule. But once the fun of settling in was over, Claudia had two unexpected problems: She felt just the same, and she wanted to feel different; and she found a statue at the museum so beautiful she could not go home until she had discovered its maker, a question that baffled the experts, too.
The former owner of the statue was Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Without her—well, without her, Claudia might never have found a way to go home.”
Claudia and Jamie have this great rapport throughout the book; Claudia is the bossy, know-it-all older sister, and Jamie is the partially annoying, yet consistently smart and innovative younger brother who doesn’t bat an eyelash over running away. Both of them seem older than their ages (Claudia is 11 and Jamie is 9) but this time I didn’t feel as if it was a result of inaccurate voice. This time, I think it’s more of a result of different time periods. Claudia and Jamie’s voices didn’t seem off because of poor writing, but rather because of period difference. And by that I mean that Claudia and Jamie sound like children in books that were written in the ’60s and earlier.
The whole time I was reading this book I wondered if what Claudia and Jamie did could be done today. Probably not, since there are things like motion-detectors now, but still. Perhaps the updated technology explains why people don’t write books like this one, although I think books like this one are vastly superior to other books written today. Any book about runaways is much more depressing and dark nowadays, because apparently every kid suffers from some sort of deep-seated angst and/or depression and we have to be able to connect with them or something. Personally, I think Claudia’s desire for appreciation and to be “different” in some way resonates more with children than a novel that has a young boy freezing to death in a playground. Or maybe it’s just that I prefer my books a little bit lighter than the heavy, dark norm today.
The Rolls Royce! Reminds of The Three Investigators, their magnificent hidden junk-yard secret headquarters, and their Rolls Royce and driver. So awesome.
Recommended Age Range: 10+
Genre: Realistic, Children’s
“What woods?” Claudia asked.
“The woods we’ll be hiding out in,” Jamie answered.
“Hiding out in? What kind of language is that?”
“English language. That’s what kind.”
“Who ever told you that we were going to hide out in the woods?” Claudia demanded.
“There! You said it. You said it!” Jamie shrieked.
“Said what? I never said we’re going to hide out in the woods.” Now Claudia was yelling, too.
“No! you said ‘hide out in.’”
Angel was that way. An answer to running away, and also to going home again, lay in Angel. She knew it was there, but she didn’t know what it was. It was just escaping her as the answer to the question on the test had…except this was even harder, for she wasn’t exactly certain of the question she was trying to answer. The question had something to do with why Angel had become more important than having run away or even being safe, at the museum.
Konigsburg has created a delightful tale that makes me wish more contemporary children’s lit. utilized plots like this one (Chasing Vermeer is all I can think of, and that’s more of the art aspect than the museum aspect). Claudia and Jamie have perfect brother/sister dialogue, and Claudia’s insistence on what she considers proper English reminds me of myself. This also contains some information on Michelangelo, which means it’s educational as well as a great story. Yeah, Education!
You can buy this here: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler