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

By E.L Konigsburg (Atheneum)

I missed reading this book when I was growing up but I’m glad I discovered it in time to pass on to my children.  E.L Konigsburg passed away last year and I noticed many US children’s book sites raving about this winner of the 1967 Newberry Medal for Outstanding Children’s Literature.

I promptly ordered it and took it with us for half term to read with my 9-year-old daughter and her friend.  Although they thought the cover didn’t look very appealing (my version was a bit more old fashioned than this cover) they loved it.   The thought of running away from a boringly mundane suburban existence always appeals to children.  Claudia Kincaid decides to run away to live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.  She knows she needs back up so she ropes her younger brother Jimmy into the plan.  While there they discover a famous statue by an unknown artist.

Claudia is thrilled at the thought that she could become a heroine and discover the artist, which leads her to meeting Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, a remarkable old woman who teaches her about life, art and herself.  As a heroine Claudia is unforgettable.  I love her fastidiousness even in the face of her decision to run. “Claudia knew that she could never pull off the old-fashioned kind of running away. She didn’t like discomfort; even picnics were untidy and inconvenient: all those insects and the sun melting the icing on the cupcakes.” In the afterword to her book Konigsburg explains that the real discovery is not the statue but the self. “The greatest adventure lies not in running away but in looking inside, and the greatest discovery is not in finding out who made a statue but in finding out what makes you.’ Order it now.

For more interesting info on the background to the book read this article.

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