Thursday, February 23, 2006

From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

If you are looking for a timeless book for your middle school aged reader (age 9 to 12), then look no further than E.L. Konigsburg's classic book, "From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler". Winner of the 1968 Newberry Award, this book doesn't seem at all dated and will appeal as much to today's young readers as it did to me when I was growing up.

Certain books warrant a repeat reading-- and this one is no exception. My own copy is dog eared from the many readings it has endured by my family and friends.

The premise of the book is this: Claudia Kincaid is bored with her straight-A perfect life. Se is looking for something to happen-- for some excitement-- so she cooks up a crazy scheme: she will run away from home. But Claudia likes the comforts of home life, so she isn't planning on slumming it. Instead, she plans to run away to a place of great mystery and intrigue, a place that she has always wanted to visit-- she plans to hide out in the world famous Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Claudia decides it's too frightening to run away by herself. Besides, she needs some financial help to fund her trip. So she decides to invite her younger brother Jamie, one of the smartest kids she knows, not to mention one of the richest, with a savings of a whopping $24.43.

Claudia leaves no detail unexamined. She plots their trip with amazing organization. Once the duo make it into New York City and set up shop in their new "home", Claudia insists that they learn about the artwork in the museum, while Jamie would prefer to hang out in the TV departments of New York's famous departments stores. Claudia's insistence that they study and learn about the artwork in the museum prevails and before you know it the two children become embroiled in the mystery of a mysterious statue that is housed at the museum. You will love reading about the Claudia and Jamie Kincaid and how their plot to run away from home turns into a life changing adventure.

This book is cleverly written, from the viewpoint of a woman named Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. The book starts out with a letter to Mrs. Frankweiler's lawyer, Saxonberg, and side notes to her lawyer are included throughout the story. When Claudia and Jamie Kincaid meet up with Mrs. Frankweiler, it's a humorous battle of wills (Claudia and the elderly Mrs. Frankweiler are very similar in their way of thinking). The book ends with Mrs. Frankweiler once again addressing her lawyer to make some changes to her will-- and the surprising twist that is included.

This book is a timeless story of a young bored girl who is so intelligent she doesn't know what to do with herself. Even when it comes to running away from home, she thinks ahead enough to send her parents a letter saying that she and Jamie are okay and not to worry (and don't call the FBI). During their adventure, the organized Claudia makes sure that she and Jamie budget enough money to go to the Laundromat to wash their dirty clothes and they carefully budget their meal allowances. The dialogue in this book is written in a breezy, easy-going way that will appeal to middle school readers. This book may also help your children appreciate the arts a little more-- in fact they may even ask to go to The Metropolitan Museum of Art!

A movie adaptation of this book was made in the 1973, and a TV adaptation was made in 1995 (with the legendary Lauren Bacall in the role of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler). While both versions are well done, nothing compares to the book. This book is a must read for any child who likes a bit of culture with their fiction. "From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler" is widely available in both hardback and paperback forms. I highly recommend buying the hardback version-- trust me, once you read this classic book you will want to reread it over and over again. All in all, I give this book a glowing recommendation for both children and adults.

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