Do you remember reading this book as a child? Or being forced to read it? It is From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (1967) by E. L. Konigsburg, and while it sounds boring, it isn’t.
I recently reread it with my daughter. I had to read it to her, because although she had received this as a gift from one of her über cool aunties, she refused to read it. It seemed “boring.” I assured her it was not. After many conversations like this—which ended without her taking any action toward reading the darn thing—I finally just started reading it to her when she was sick. She couldn’t escape, and after the first two chapters, she was hooked.
A few days ago, before we had finished it, my former nanny’s little sister, a girl of 12, came over to visit my four-year-old. They have become good friends, at least in my four-year-old’s eyes. The 12-year-old saw our copy of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler on our coffee table, and immediately said, “Is Olivia reading that? It’s such a good book.” I went on to tell her about how I had to force Olivia to read it with me. She said, “Yeah, my dad had to convince me to read it, too.” But she ended up loving it as well.
It is about a brother and sister, Jamie and Claudia Kincaid, who run away from home to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The reason why isn’t quite clear even to them, except that Claudia wants to experience “something” and she wants to “change.” The children spend about a week hiding in the museum by night, and mingling with museum patrons by day. They sleep in one of the old fancy beds on display, and hide in bathroom stalls during closing time. They also bathe in the museum’s fountain, where they scoop up money to continue to be able to buy food.
What makes the story intriguing, beyond the adventure, is the museum’s new statue of an angel, purportedly by Michelangelo. The museum is trying to authenticate the statue, and the children attempt to help by doing their own investigations.
In the end, the children learn more about the statue from Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, who once owned the statue, than the museum does. They also take a liking to her and plan to adopt her as their “grandmother.” She makes sure they get home safely, after interviewing them about their adventures in the museum.
It is a lovely book, one about everyday children that should appeal to young readers. The book also has its instructive and educational moments, making it a sure favorite among adults as well. I guess that part of it is what prompted me to “force” it on my daughter. I’m glad I did because she liked it. I liked revisiting it. This is one of those books that will forever remind me of the good parts of my childhood.
I have never read this one. I am always on the lookout for good books for my nieces and nephews, so I will keep it in mind! About what age would you say it is for?
I would say 9-12.
I have never read this, but I bought it for my own kids, because, I thought, who wouldn’t want to read about children running away and hiding out at a museum? Well, my kids don’t. I haven’t been able to convince anyone here to read it yet. I just might have to wait until they are sick, like you did.
This is not the only children’s book I’ve had this problem with. There have been many. Sigh…
I’m not sure what it is about this one. The title, perhaps? You might have to just start reading it aloud to them. Good luck!
I LOVE this book! E.L. Konigsburg captures the mystery and magic of childhood, the world we lived in before dull adult realities set in. It’s an otherworldly book that’s set in our world, which is quite a feat to accomplish. Lovely post!
Well said. That is exactly what is special about this book!
I read this when I was a kid and I loved it. Luckily, no one had to push it on me. I remember picking it up and reading the summary and deciding I had to read it since it was about a museum.
You were a cool kid! It really made me want to visit the museum.
I love museums! Always have, probably always will.
When I taught 4th grade, I had my literature circles read this book. Very fun read!
It really is a lot of fun!
I think i will read it to myself, then my little sister 🙂
Thanks for the review 🙂
I hope you like it!
I loved this book when I was a kid, and to this day I want to live in the Met. I just read another of Konigsburg’s books, The Second Mrs. Giaconda, and I love it too. It’s very spare, and only says what needs to be said to further the story. But my step-daughter gave it to me 15 years ago when she was just a kid, and it’s taken me this long to pick it up. I shouldn’t have waited so long.
That sounds like a good one! I read the author’s A View from Saturday and loved it as well. I don’t think you can go wrong with Konigsburg. 🙂
I had to read this in elementary school, maybe 4th grade or something, but I remember reading it and absolutely loving it…and wanting to hide out in a museum!
I feel the same way. Such a fun idea!
I read and loved this book as a kid! Now i donate it to the missions kids whenever i can!
Nice idea! I bet they love it.
I have never even heard of this book, I now kinda feel like I have missed out. Will have to read it and see what the magic about it is 🙂
I’m glad I got to introduce you to it! Enjoy.
E.L. Konigsburg is one of my favorite children’s authors. The View from Saturday is also wonderful!
She is great! I wish I had her talent for telling such timely and interesting stories.
How could adventures in a museum ever be boring? Wish I had read it when I was a kid. Thanks for sharing this. 🙂
You can’t go wrong with a museum and runaways!
It’s funny – my third and fourth grade teacher used to read aloud right after lunch. We could engage in other activities while she read, but had to remain quiet. I remember this, “the Westing Game”, “Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH”, and a few other classics I might not otherwise have read, but thoroughly enjoyed. I tried to convince my kids to read them to no avail… Reading aloud is a great idea.
If you’ve never read Dodie Smith’s “The Hundred and One Dalmations”, I recommend it as well… It is decidedly different from the Disney versions, which lost a great deal of charm.
I will take you up on that suggestion. I’ve read Smith’s adult novel but not this one because of the movie. Thanks! And it was fun to hear your good memories.
I haven’t thought about this book in many many years — but it was such a favorite of mine when I was young! Thank you for the reminder of its wonderfulness.
It’s my pleasure!
This was one of my favorite books when I was a kid. A couple years ago I bought a copy for my kids, but they won’t read it. Then again, they won’t read most of the books on the shelves. Sigh.
It is hard to convince them to give certain books a try. Just tie them down and start reading it to them! 🙂
Only two of them are at the age I could do that, but I doubt my 4yo would understand the book (or sit still long enough). My almost 9yo might listen. The other three are 12, 13 and 14–long past reading to.
What a sweet and poignant post, Emily! I really need to reread this one!!
Thanks, Lynn! This one would definitely be worth a reread. Enjoy!