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From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler Paperback – Deckle Edge, September 25, 2007
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About the Author
E.L. Konigsburg is the only author to have won the Newbery Medal and a Newbery Honor in the same year. In 1968, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler won the Newbery Medal and Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth was named a Newbery Honor Book. Almost thirty years later she won the Newbery Medal once again for The View from Saturday. Among her other acclaimed books are Silent to the Bone, The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place, and The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World.
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Far from being "encouraged to become a runaway" as some misguided reviewers criticize this story for, I can remember being concerned at how the runaways' family would be impacted by not knowing their fate. This is the type of difficult situation that kids should spend some time thinking about.
The fantasy of the kids living in the museum is just fun. They must find ways to dress, bathe, sleep, and eat, all within the normal resources which would be available to them within the museum, and the story of how they accomplish that life is interesting and entertaining.
Finally there is the mystery of the statue. A beautiful statue with an uncertain provenance, the kids become enamored of it and seek to investigate its origins. Their pursuit of answers proceeds in a logical and entirely believable series of actions which serve to drive the focus of the plot. Whether this type of story will capture the imagination and interest of kids today who are more used to video games is a question I can't answer. I would feel sorry for any kids who can't understand and become intrigued by this story, as it is a good one to spur thinking on several levels.
Instead children’s books tell simple stories that often do a great job of getting to root meanings of life.
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler is one of the classics that I think has held up fairly well. Claudia, a 12 year-old oldest child that feels like she is underappreciated by her parents and decides to run away. Her younger brother, Jamie, comes with her mostly for the adventure. Most kids would identify with one or both of these reasons for running away.
They take the train from the suburbs of Connecticut to Manhattan and move into the Metropolitan Museum of Art. While they are there, a statue starts showing that may be a lost work of Michelangelo. This gives a purpose not only to the story, but especially to Claudia, who ran away in part to find purpose and meaning.
If you haven’t read the story, I won’t blow the whole thing, but I did think the book held up very well from 1967. It does not feel like an old book, although clearly there are anacronysism that modern readers (child) will not always understand (if nothing else the wildly different prices.)
I listened to the audiobook from the library. As always, books that I have not read since childhood seem so much shorter today than my memory of them. I listened to the whole thing during an afternoon of data entry work.
This book was really enjoyable to read. It didn't feel challenging, and I liked the action and the mystery. The writing was conversational, since the narrator, Mrs. Frankweiler, loves to insult her lawyer Saxonberg. I thought it was pretty funny because of the wacky plot. It grabbed me and I wanted to keep reading. My favorite part is when the kids first thought of trying to run away, although I was also very curious to learn who really carved the Angel. Maybe the author wanted readers to become curious-- it worked! The only thing I would have changed if I was the author, would be to make James not a cheapskate, because it didn't fit with the overall excitement of the story.
Middle school readers or mature older elementary readers will enjoy this action-packed tale. Very young readers might not get much out of the plot of the book: we start knowing nothing, and as we read, we understood much more. Although the book felt complete, the ending leaves the reader with many questions. I found it pretty unbelievable that two young kids could run away successfully. I definitely don't think this book could happen today in 2017, because things aren't as cheap anymore!