E. L. Konigsburg - From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler: Literature Guide

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The Strangest Place to Run Away

Jan 18, 2000 (Updated Jul 12, 2000)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:imaginative, kids can relate to the characters

Cons:Parts are a little unrealistic and dated by today's standards

I will admit that the long title scared me at first. I don't know why. It took about four years of sitting on my shelf before I was willing to try it. But once I got past the title, I discovered that From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler is an imaginative, interesting, Newbery-medal-winning book.

The main character is Claudia, a twelve-year-old girl who feels underappreciated at home. She is a meticulous planner, and works on her running-away plan for weeks before she actually runs away. She realizes that she needs a money source (Her $0.50 allowance is mostly budgeted to "hot fudge expenses."), so she decides to bring her younger brother Jamie along. Jamie is a miser whose allowance is never spent, except on an occasional battery for his transistor radio. Jamie also wins extra money each week by cheating his friend on their daily card game of war on the school bus.

On the appointed day, Claudia and Jamie stuff their backpacks and instrument cases with clothes and stay hidden on the school bus after the others are dropped off at school. From there, they take the train to New York City and enter the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They spend the day wandering the museum with an "adopted" school group. And at the end of the day, they simply hide in the bathroom.

While they are at the museum, the museum acquires a new statue of an angel. This statue has a big controversy surrounding it: was it or was it not carved by Michaelangelo? Claudia has found herself a mission--she is not going to return home until she has discovered the answer to this question. Her research leads her to an old woman named Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and her mixed-up files.

The descriptions of how the two set up camp in the museum are really interesting. It sounded like something I would love to do. Claudia has a plan for everything, including how to avoid the security guards at closing time and how to take baths (and "earn" a little money in the process).

The book is a little unrealistic by today's standards. Do you really think two kids today could not get caught after closing time by just standing on the toilets? Would they really be able to stay on the bus after the rest of the kids get off? The prices are definitely dated. Jamie is considered "rich" because of his stash of $24.43. He allows Claudia to spend the extravagant amount of $0.50 on lunch. I wish.

This book is well-written, never boring, and very interesting to any kid (or adult...) who has ever had any desire to do something "different" for a while. Of all of the E.L. Konigsburg books I have read, I would call this one the best! It deserved the Newbery medal that it won.


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