Tuesday, January 20, 2015

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

From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg
Published: 1967 by Atheneum
Source: I bought this copy for my kids almost twenty years ago

Publisher's Summary:
When suburban Claudia Kincaid decides to run away, she knows she doesn't just want to run from somewhere, she wants to run to somewhere -- to a place that is comfortable, beautiful, and, preferably, elegant. She chooses the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Knowing that her younger brother Jamie has money and thus can help her with a serious cash-flow problem, she invites him along.

Once settled into the museum, Claudia and Jamie find themselves caught up in the mystery of an angel statue that the museum purchased at auction for a bargain price of $225. The statue is possibly an early work of the Renaissance master, Michelangelo, and therefore worth millions. Is it? Or isn't it? Claudia is determined to find out. Her quest leads her to Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, the remarkable old woman who sold the statue, and to some equally remarkable discoveries about herself.

My Thoughts:
It was odd, as I started reading, to get my head wrapped around the demographic the book was aimed at and enjoy it as it's meant to be enjoyed. And it was hard to imagine, in these days, that two children could get away with living in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I had to remind myself that times were different then. It was good to remember a time when that could, perhaps, have happened. When research had to be done in a library. When there were no cell phones. When less than $30 might be enough to live on for a few days.

Claudia and Jamie had to work as a team, using each of their gifts and their brains to succeed in their grand adventure; wonderful lessons for people of all ages. When they finally arrive on Mrs. Frankweiler's doorstep, she helps them consider their adventure in a new, more adult way.
"The adventure is over. Everything gets over, and nothing is ever enough. Except the part you carry with you. It's the same as going on a vacation. Some people spend all their time on a vacation taking pictures so that when they get home they can show their friends evidence that they had a good time. They don't pause to let the vacation enter inside of them and take that home."
Konigsburg won the Newbery award for From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler in 1968. I'm certain it had to do with her ability to write for her target audience without talking down to them.
"I think you should learn, of course, and some days you must learn a great deal. But you should also have days when you allow what is already in you to swell up inside of you until it touches everything. An you can feel it inside you. If you never take time out to let that happen, then you just accumulate facts, and they begin to rattle around inside of you. You can make noise with them, but never really feel anything with them."
Now I'm wondering if we still have A View From Saturday somewhere. I just might have to pick up another of Konigsburg's books - it's good to touch base with the writers who encouraged you to become a reader.


  1. I really really want to read a Konigsburg book one of these days!

  2. Ah, I love this book. I remember reading it to my daughter when she was in elementary school. A lovely school librarian that I did some volunteer work for placed it in my hands. Thanks for the reminder.

  3. This sounds delightful! I love these middle grade books from this time period. I've heard of this one but never read it. I'll have to look for it!

  4. The first quote you shared is one I try to keep in mind whenever I start snapping photos of my daughter. Once I filmed a video of her and realized while watching it back that I didn't remember any of it. I was so focused on filming the moment that I missed it. I know that has little too do with your book, but it's the first thought that came to mind when I reached the end of your review.

    I haven't heard of this book, but it does sound good. While not realistic in today's world, it is a nice story to get lost in, I imagine.

  5. Love this book, but I haven't read it in years. Have you ever seen the TV movie with Lauren Bacall?

  6. I just read about this book in a magazine and i was wondering where I had seen it before. Now I remember that it was this post when I was glancing through my Feedly the other day, though not actually reading any posts. I will have to read this one!

  7. I can still vividly remember doing some playacting around this book when I was in 4th or 5th grade. I don't think I've read it since then! I love that first quote--it's a fine balance between recording and experiencing!