From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by e.l. konigsburg

 From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler cover

This book was first published in 1967 and it won the Newbery Medal. I was lucky enough to be given it by Jennifer and until I received I hadn’t even heard of the book but it was just perfect reading for these strange and unsettling times.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg begins in a suburn of New York City where Claudia, the eldest of four children is thoroughly fed up with things as they are. She has three younger brothers who never have to do any chores around their home, not that all her work is appreciated, in fact they try to make her life even more difficult.

Claudia decides that the time has come for her to run away, the only problem is that she has very little money, she can’t save her pocket money as she must have her hot fudge sundae treat every week. Her plan will only work if she can persuade her brother Jamie to go with her as he is a tightwad and consequently has quite a stash of money saved.

She doesn’t want to stay away from home too long, just long enough to make her parents worry and pay her more attention in the future. She’s not keen on roughing it so plans to stay somewhere where they can be fairly comfortable and she chooses the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Claudia and Jamie manage to dodge the museum guards for days and they are able to wander around the museum and sleep in a 16th century four poster bed. Claudia has it all worked out, they bathe in a fountain and manage to eke out their money and even wash their clothes at a launderette. Then Claudia becomes obsessed by a new exhibit of a statue of an angel – is it by Michelangelo or not?

This is a lovely book and I so empathised with Claudia’s situation at home, a common one for girls of my and Claudia’s age back in 1967. Although this is a lovely light read it also shows how the siblings become aware of each other’s strengths and weaknesses and they learned to appreciate each other more.

12 thoughts on “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by e.l. konigsburg

  1. Isn’t that a wonderful book? I was lucky enough to read it when it came out in 1967. My brothers (3 of them) and I – and our mother – loved it. My day job, when not sheltering at home, is in the children’s department at the public library. I’m happy to say that Claudia, Jamie, and Mrs. Frankweiler are still very popular with kids today.

    • Molly,
      It’s great to know that modern kids still enjoy it. I wonder if like me and Claudia you also had to do all the household chores whilst the brothers were treated like kings?! How lucky you are to be working in the children’s department of the library. I loved working in libraries although it’s years since I did it.

  2. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Celia reread it over the weekend. This book still makes me look at every museum I am in and wonder how I would hide out in it.

    • Jennifer,
      It’s quite spooky that Celia and I were reading it at the same time. Sometimes they have sleepovers for kids in museums nowadays but that wouldn’t at all be the same as being there surreptitiously. The Kelvingrove in Glasgow was my home from home as a kid, next time I’m there I’ll look for suitable hiding places too!

  3. I simply loved this book when I read it, during the very early days of my teaching Grade 6 (ten years total.) I fully felt my 12-year-old self while reading, and it fit all my sensibilities completely. A classic, a masterpiece, surely.

  4. One of my childhood favorites! I love how Konigsberg didn’t write down to young readers — the framing device is a bit odd and of course all is revealed, but I don’t know if authors would attempt such a thing for middle graders today.

    I read this book over and over as a kid and desperately wanted to run away and hide in a museum. It took me more than 30 years to get to the Met and sadly the fountain in the cafe isn’t there any more. I did a little searching, it’s now in a botanical garden in South Carolina:

    • Karen K.

      Thanks for the link, the fountain is much bigger than I had imagined it to be. If I had read that book as a youngster I would definitely have been dreaming of emulating them.

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