The Bottom Line
Adventure, mystery, and secrets engage the reader in this award winning children’s novel about siblings who run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Appropriate ages: 8 – 13 year olds
Buy From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
• The adventure and mystery draw the reader in.
• Boys and girls alike will relate to the story.
• Appropriate for a family read-aloud because it appeals to a wider audience.
• The art museum setting can spark an interest in visiting your local art museums as a family.
• The higher reading level makes the text less accessible for struggling readers.
• May glamorize running away from home.
• Claudia chooses to bring her brother along for monetary purposes – practical, but not highly moral
• Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler relates the story of two children she meets at the end of their adventure.
• Claudia doesn’t feel appreciated at home and runs away to the comfortable, elegant Metropolitan Museum of Art.
• She brings her brother, Jamie, to help bankroll the adventure.
• They find ways to hide from guards, explore the museum at night, and, in the process, uncover a huge mystery about one special sculpture.
• Throughout their excursion, they take pains to maintain their hygiene, stay on a budget, and learn something new every day.
• During their investigation, Claudia uncovers some truths about herself.
Kristine’s Review – From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg
Twelve-year old Claudia runs away with her brother, but instead of simply escaping her troubles at home, she learns something about herself. At first, the persona of the narrator is ambiguous but becomes clear as the story unfolds. Several instances of foreshadowing occur throughout the story. The mystery surrounding the statue is central to the story, but the value of having and keeping a secret is also an overarching theme.
Family Reading Suggestions
This book appeals to intermediate grade students, but the reading level may be a challenge. If your child struggles with this independently, read it together, either as a family read-aloud, or shared reading where you take turns reading one page at a time. If your child is able to read it independently, read alongside so you can enjoy the story together and discuss it. Remember, these are not “book report” discussions, but instead an opportunity to share the love of the story and your thoughts on it, similar to how you would discuss a book with other adults. This book was written several decades ago, so the children’s budget is vastly different from what would be required for a modern adventure of this sort. Talk about how a different budget would impact the story if it occurred today. Talk about how the children problem-solve an extended stay at the museum, search for clues about the sculpture, and even examine Mrs. Frankweiler’s files. Flip back through the story to find instances of foreshadowing.
Beyond the Book
• Plan a weekend “run away” adventure with each of your children. Determine where you want to go, how you will get there, the costs, what activities you will do, where you will eat, etc. Then take each on their adventure, separately, and enjoy the time together.
• Visit a local museum (art, history, or science) as a family and learn as much as you can about one exhibit both during and after your visit. A museum guide or docent should be able to direct you to an appropriate exhibit.
• Have an art history mystery of your own. Search for an undocumented piece of work by a master, and use similar investigative techniques from the story.