Thursday, 5 April 2012
Review: From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
Author: E.L. Konigsburg
Publisher: Walker Books
Publication Date: 1967
Genre: Junior Fiction
Children run away from home for many different reasons, but Claudia Kincaid always knew she wasn’t the type to run away in the heat of the moment. For weeks, Claudia has been planning to run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan. After weeks of planning and saving up her money, Claudia springs her plan into action by telling her brother, and chosen companion, about her plan. Together, they take a train from their suburban town to New York City. Armed with their instrument cases filled with clothes, Claudia and Jamie become residents of the Museum. She is an excellent planner who is terrible with money, while he is great with finances, loves complications and works well under pressure. When a new addition to the museum catches their eye, they start to wonder if this statue, Angel, could actually be a work of Michelangelo. Determined to find the truth, Claudia and Jamie head to the source, Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. As the two children try to find the truth, they realize the importance of having a secret of one’s own.
This book was my first ever audio book, and I listened to it while driving through Pennsylvania. It was also my first book by E.L. Konigsburg. I say this is all the time, but I wish I had read this when I was a kid. I would have loved Jamie and Claudia’s adventure in New York, and how they managed to secretly live in the Met for a week. I actually had no idea this book took place in the Met until I started to read, and was instantly excited. I am madly in love with the Met and wish I were clever enough to live there. This book follows two smart thinking and independent siblings. Together, they try to solve a mystery about a sculpture and its maker. Like the Kincaid siblings, I too got caught up in the fun and would temporarily forget about their parents. However, they did take it much too far. I know children have difficulty with empathy, but Jamie and Claudia never thought about their parents and weren’t too concerned when they saw the newspaper story. I liked these characters overall, but as someone who is basically an adult I couldn’t help being frustrated with them at times. The narrator of the book is actually Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler herself, and this worked well. The story is about whether a new addition to the Met is actually by Michelangelo, but I wouldn’t call this book a mystery. I don’t think there was any way for the reader to deduce who made the statue, and it also didn’t feel like a mystery. But instead of feeling let down, I couldn’t have cared less. I loved this book just as it was. Although written in 1967, only the prices mentioned made it feel dated. This timeless book about art and growing as a person can make anyone feel like an eleven-year-old kid on their first adventure in one of the most beautiful buildings in the world.
“I think you should learn, of course, and some days you must learn a great deal. But you should also have days when you allow what is already in you to swell up inside of you until it touches everything. And you can feel it inside of you. If you never take time out to let that happen, then you accumulate facts, and they begin to rattle around inside of you. You can make noise with them, but never really feel anything with them. It's hollow.”