FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER by E.L. Konigsburg


My daughters and I are in a Mother-Daughter Book Club, and our final book of the year was From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg. It came out in 1967 and I vaguely remembered reading this book as a child – “the one about the kids who run away and live in the Met” – but that’s pretty much all I could recall. So I was excited to re-read it to see if it stands up in 2013.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the book, it is about Claudia and Jamie Kinkaid, siblings from the ‘burbs who decide to run away from home and hide out in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Feeling underappreciated at home, Claudia was searching for a little excitement, and she chose to bring Jamie with her because he had some available cash due to cheating at the card game War. They took a train into the city (then walked to the museum to save money), where their adventures began.

Claudia and Jamie learned to survive in the museum by sleeping at night on a royal bed, bathing in a fountain in the museum restaurant, hiding from guards, and blending into school trips to learn more about the museum’s vast collection. Their interest is piqued when a new statue is unveiled – a small angel believed to have been sculpted by Michaelangelo – and they decide to try to help the museum solve the question of the statue’s authenticity. That quest eventually leads them back home, but along they way they encounter the titular Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, an eccentric heiress who was the previous owner of the statue, and learn some secrets of their own.

I don’t think I really understood this book as a kid, but this time around I thought it was a lot of fun. There are definitely some aspects that feel dated – in this day and age, missing suburban kids would be recognized immediately, and the security in the museum today certainly wouldn’t allow interlopers to move in for a week or two. But the story holds up, and my 9 year-olds enjoyed it a lot. They liked the details about the kids living on their own, and while they found the Michaelangelo storyline a little confusing, they got the overall gist of it.  There is also a fun twist at the end that I didn’t see coming and which we all appreciated. The siblings have a nice relationship, and they are never in any danger while on their adventure.

So, yes, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler holds up, 45 years later (!). I recommend it for kids looking for an adventurous read with a little mystery thrown in.

9 Comments

  • June 17, 2013 - 8:17 pm | Permalink

    I’m buying this for my kids tomorrow. It left an ever lasting impression on me, I’m sure it will on them, too.

    • gayle
      June 19, 2013 - 10:25 am | Permalink

      Let me know what they think of it!

  • June 17, 2013 - 8:38 pm | Permalink

    I LOVED this book as a kid! Frankly, I still fantasize about slipping away and living in a museum!

    • gayle
      June 19, 2013 - 10:25 am | Permalink

      It does sound very appealing!

  • Jill
    June 18, 2013 - 11:47 pm | Permalink

    This was my FAVORITE book as a kid. So, I just made Luca read it last month and it only got a so-so review from him, which crushed me. He’s only 7 (but an avid reader). Perhaps he’s too young. I’ll wait until Maddox is 9 or 10 before I make him read it.

    • gayle
      June 19, 2013 - 10:25 am | Permalink

      I think 7 may be too young, especially for the art history part of it. Alexa didn’t really get it either.

  • sheila
    June 19, 2013 - 7:53 am | Permalink

    I have read this to and with all my three kids and have loved it everytime. I have been in a mother daughter book club for years with both of my girls… and have read some of my favorite books in them!

    enjoy the experience

    • gayle
      June 19, 2013 - 10:24 am | Permalink

      Glad to hear you loved this one too! The girls in the group MOSTLY liked the book, but not all of them got it, I think.

  • July 4, 2013 - 10:58 am | Permalink

    I loved this story. I wonder if my kids would like it as much as I did. I should find a copy for them.

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