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

(Suggested reading level: Grades 3-6)

Sometimes classic children’s books just don’t work for me, probably because I’m too critical. Amber (10) and I both adored this one, though.

Claudia is determined to run away from home to teach her folks a lesson. She knows herself well and realizes that she wants to run to somewhere comfortable and beautiful. The Metropolitan Museum of Art is the perfect place. Taking her brother Jamie, who has a fair amount of cash, with her, she settles in for a nice stay. There she becomes intrigued by Angel, a statue that may or may not have been carved by Michelangelo. Claudia is determined to discover the statue’s secrets. 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.

“Returning with a secret is what she really wants. Angel had a secret and that made her exciting, important. Claudia doesn’t want adventure. She likes baths and feeling comfortable too much for that kind of thin. Secrets are the kind of adventure she needs. Secrets are safe, and they do much to make you different. On the inside where it counts.” (pg. 150)

This book made me want to hide out in the museum, explore its secrets after dark, when it would belong to me, not all the tourists that traipse through during the day. I can imagine it feeling entirely different when it’s empty.

There are some lessons here, I’m sure. The importance of working as a team, respecting each others’ thoughts, opinions and needs. That knowledge can you make you special.

It’s funny, though. The fact that their parent’s must have been frantic, with the children missing for days on end, is mentioned once or twice, but just glossed over for the most part. For Claudia, and therefore the reader, the parents lose their importance. The kids are self-sufficient and safe and the museum and Angel’s secrets become their focus. The trip is no longer about teaching their parents a lesson for Claudia, it’s about coming home changed.

The story is just a delight. I’m so glad I shared it with my daughter.

First published in 1967
Newberry Medal 1968
162 pages

Challenges: 100+, Shelf Discovery

I borrowed our copy from the library and the above is my honest opinion. I am an Amazon associate.


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