Rummanah Aasi
 After reading the phenomenal Wonderstruck, I wanted to go back and read From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg, which inspired Brian Selznick. Though I've heard of the book, I never really sat down and read it. The book was originally published in 1967 and won the Newbery Medal in 1968.

Description (from the backcover): 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 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.


Review: I have no idea how I missed this book when I was younger. I think the third grader in me would have enjoyed this book filled with humor, suspense, and intrigue. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler is narrated with a dry sense of humor by a wealthy old lady named Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Mrs. Frankweiler’s purportedly true story tells of how she encountered two young children named James and Claudia Kincaid. The book begins with Claudia who is fed up with being unfairly treated in the Kincaid household in Greenwich, Connecticut. She is tired of her monotonous routine and yearns to have an adventure of her own. With her prized adventure in mind, she decides to teach her parents to learn how to value her by running away from home. Considering her very low tolerance for discomfort, she chooses the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City as her hideaway, and considering her very low supply of money, she persuades her penny-pinching younger brother, Jamie, to join her.
 With the snazzy and awe inspiring art museum as their home/playground, sister and brother make the most out of their new freedom. Claudia and Jamie come up with a plan to remain hidden and spend their money wisely. They hide in the bathrooms at opening and closing time to evade the museum personnel, sleep in ancient canopy beds while pretending to be 16th-century monarchs, bathe in the restaurant fountain while picking up wish coins to add to their dwindling funds, and mingle with visitors for their daily dose of art history. While the plot isn't plausible at all, I still enjoyed reading about their adventure which brought out the childlike innocence and hope in me. The events at the museum aren't small plot conveniences so much as the developing relationship between Claudia and Jamie as well as highlighting each of the character’s individual strengths: Claudia at planning while Jaime being conservative about money.
 I loved Jamie and Claudia. Though they constantly bicker, they reminded me a lot of my younger brother and myself developing schemes of our own. You can tell that they love each other very much and that this relationship will last a long time. Jamie had me laughing at loud with his grammar slip-ups. I can vividly picture these two characters wandering the halls of the museum.
  Along with great humor, warmth, and intrigue when an unidentified statue is discovered, there is also an important lesson learned: that you only have to look inside to find what makes a person different and beautiful inside. In other words, you yourself become the living work of art. I'm really glad I read this one off my bookshelf and I hope that you read it too.

Rating: 4 stars


Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 3 to 6. I also think it would work great as a read aloud book choice too.

If you like this book try: Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick, Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliet
9 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    I haven't heard of this one, but I love the message about making yourself a living work of art:) Thanks for sharing this one Rummanah, it's always fun to know what books inspire authors to write what they do!


  2. Annette Says:

    I've not read this one either -- but I should have. It sounds like a good book -- as I've heard before.


  3. I read this book as a kid. I remember liking it but can't remember much else. I should re-read it. It seems like one of those kids books that holds up as well or even better as an adult.


  4. Missie Says:

    Never heard of this book before, *hands head in shame*

    But the message is an important one, and it's great knowing that it's told using lots of good humor.


  5. I need to re-read this one! I loved it as a kid :) I used to think that the title was way too long and lame, but now as an adult I can appreciate it. Great review!


  6. Tina~ Says:

    Ive never heard of this one...it seems very interesting...:) I cant believe its been around so long and I have not read it....geeezzz....


  7. This sounds so good. I think I know just the kids to recommend it to!


  8. Suko Says:

    Hi, I am new to your blog from Mel's blog, The Reading Life.

    I absolutely loved this book as a child! I think I'd enjoy it as much or even more today. Wonderful, insightful review!


  9. Lauren M Says:

    Oh, man! I remember reading this in 5th grade! If I recall correctly, I enjoyed it quite a bit. Glad to hear you liked it, too! Thanks for the review, Rummanah. :)


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