From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg is a delightful and adventurous Middle-Grade tale of two intelligent children who run away from home. When nearly 12-year old Claudia decides she’s had enough of her home life, being the oldest, getting virtually no allowance and getting overlooked, she makes the decision to run away. But she doesn’t want to just run away; she wants to run to someplace. A place that’s comfortable and elegant. Where she doesn’t have to be dirty and cold. And that is why she picks the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. And she takes her little brother Jamie with her. Not only is Jamie good for a laugh but he’s resourceful and has money. The children embark on their adventure with the planning skills of much older people, hiding in the museum bathrooms before opening and closing, rationing out their money for filling food, walking instead of taking taxis and overall having an enjoyable time living out their secret. That is until they find “Angel” a lovely, marble statue of unknown origin. Some say she was carved by Michelangelo, others deny it. What Claudia realizes is she can’t go back home not knowing the truth about Angel. Because then she’ll be the same old Claudia. No, she decides, she must know if it was indeed the famous artist who created her because that sort of secret stays with a person forever. And what Claudia soon discovers is that she enjoyed the secret of running away much more than the actual running.
This book is an old one I’d read many times when I was younger. Having picked it up again in a moment of nostalgia, I was not disappointed. It was just as much fun, just as much intrigue. But there were some moments of confusion. How could these two children create such an elaborate scheme? They might as well have been detectives on CSI for how much knowledge and intuitiveness they possessed. I certainly couldn’t come up with half the plans they did! I also wanted a little more resolution at the end. What happens when Claudia and Jamie return home? But I still loved this novel. If readers are looking for a light-hearted tale with art, history, and adventure, they won’t be disappointed. This book will bring out the kid in you and next time you go to a museum, you may not look at it the same way! 5 fun stars!
Originally published with Writers News Weekly in 2009.