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

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Konigsburg, E. L. (2002). From the mixed-up files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. New York, NY: Simon Pulse. (Original work published in 1967).


Claudia, 11 years old, and Jamie, nine years old are typical kids growing up in a suburb of New York City in the 1960’s. Claudia plans to run away for reasons she herself does not fully understand. She decides that her penny-pinching little brother would make the perfect companion for her adventure.

Claudia’s plan to run away and stay in the Metropolitan Museum of Art are well thought out and usually go according to plan. Jamie’s role is that of the financial planner. This works out well except occasionally Claudia is inconvenienced by his frugal choices for their food purchases or transportation needs.

While at the museum Claudia becomes captivated by a statue in the museum that could have been created by Michelangelo. She is determined to learn the truth about the statue. It is this determination that eventually leads the children to meeting Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and then returning home.

My Impression

This book will be a timeless classic. The desire for adventure is in all of us to some degree. Claudia and her brother, Jamie grab the hearts of children and adults alike with their natural actions and reactions to the world around them. It is fun to watch the sibling relationship evolve and grow as they face challenges along their journey. There is an element of mystery in this book that will keep readers of all ages turning the pages.


Claudia Kincaid was a careful and organised planner. She liked culture, but most of all she liked her creature comforts. So when she decided to run away from her middle class suburban neighbourhood, she headed for the most elegant place in the world: the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. After careful consideration Claudia choose Jamie, her spendthrift 9-year-old brother, to accompany her on her great adventure. ‘They complemented each other perfectly. She was cautious (about everything but money) and poor; he was adventurous (about everything but money) and rich.’ The pair become wrapped up in a captivating art mystery and eventually meet the narrator of the book. Konigsburg writes a very quirky narrative and has a great ear for dialogue. The eccentric exchange between brother and sister is captured perfectly throughout the story, the siblings being an odd couple, both with plenty of foibles but incredibly likeable. Claudia is quite precocious and loves to daydream, but manages to maintain a cautious grip on their education and her brother’s grammar. She has everything covered from where they sleep (in a 16th-century bed) to where they bathe (in the fountain by the restaurant). Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler narrates the story with occasional side comments to her lawyer, Saxonberg. At times her witty observations seem to interrupt the children’s droll dialogue. This book was first published in 1967 and won the Newbery Medal, America’s top award for children’s literature. Apart from the odd archaic expression, the story still holds its simple and extremely humorous appeal. It is all the more relevant considering its obvious influence on the recent Golden Globe winning film ‘The Royal Tenenbaums’. 2003, Walker, 4.99 (pbk). Ages 9 to 12.

Quinn, S. (2003). [Review of the book From the mixed-up files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg]. Inis – The magazine of children’s books Ireland. Vol. 6. Retrieved from http://www.childrensbooksireland.ie/inis-magazine/

Yes, I know most of you know this book, but I was at a book store the other day and a woman who was my age (you know, 25, give or take a few years) picked this up for her daughter and obviously hadn’t heard of it. The adventures of Claudia and her brother Jamie as they run away to the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art is a book that every child should know. Their curiosity, independence and realistic sibling bickering resonates today as much as it did 35 years ago. E. L. Konigsburg, who I blame for turning me into an author groupie since she invited a then 10-year-old Sharon into her home after I called her on the phone, has included an afterword, her letter from Jean Karl at Atheneum offering her a contract for this book, and a small, funny note that was distributed at Mrs. Konigsburg’s Newbery Award acceptance speech. If you love this book, this re-issue is worth having; if you haven’t read it yet, what are you waiting for? 2002 (orig. 1967), Atheneum Books, $5.99. Ages 8 to 12.

Levin, S. (2002). [Review of the book From the mixed-up files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg]. Children’s Literature. Retrieved from http://childrenslit.com/

Uses in the Library

This book would be a great focal point in a display of mystery books. A chapter could be read aloud each week when the students visit the school library. Points that could be discussed after reading the book could include: What makes a book a mystery book? How are children of the past the same and different from children today? What is the Newbery Medal and why did this book win?


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