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

From the back cover:
Twelve-year-old Claudia Kincaid is restless. She wants to do something different, leaving her comfortable suburban life in Connecticut behind for awhile. And she wants to be gone just long enough to teach her parents to appreciate her. But as Claudia plans to run away, not just any place will do. She wants to live in style—in a place with a bit of luxury and some good company. Claudia settles on New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. She invites her younger brother Jamie to come along too, not for companionship, but mostly because he is a miser and has saved up some money.

Unfortunately, the live-in at the museum isn’t all Claudia had hoped. She doesn’t feel any different than before. And soon she finds herself in the middle of an interesting museum mystery. Claudia sees a statue so beautiful that she cannot head back to Connecticut until she discovers its maker. The first clue is the statue’s former owner, Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, an unusual old woman who helps Claudia finally find her way home.

Children’s fiction is pretty hit or miss with me, it seems. Sometimes I love it to pieces, and other times I think I’m too old to really get it. I’m sure it would be fun for a 10-year-old to read about running away or having a secret, and they’d probably identify with all the sibling squabbles and stuff, but a stodgy grown-up like me can’t really get excited about any of it.

It was cute, and the idea that Claudia’s compulsion to run away (with every intention of returning) was all about the search for herself was kind of a subtle one. It’s not like she learned some “valuable lesson” about tolerance or something. It was rather old-fashioned, as one might expect from something penned in the ’60s, and on a few occasions, I’d swear the siblings’ dialogue wouldn’t have been out of place in some sitcom from that era.

I did really enjoy the illustrations done by the author. Claudia and Jamie were modelled after her own children and the drawings add further charm to the story—I particularly like the one where they’re looking rather bored while researching in a library.

I just wish I’d read it when I were younger.

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  1. There is a very popular kid’s show with the same name that’s played here for 2 or 3 years here at TBPAC now. Kids seem to eat the show up …

  2. Yeah, that’s why I wished I’d read this when I was younger, ‘cos I probably would’ve been able to, like, get excited by it.

  3. Mrs. Basil is no Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, I’m sure …

  4. Hee hee. I did love me some Judy Blume in my day.

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