From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. E. L. Konigsburg. 1967. Simon & Schuster. 162 pages.
Claudia knew that she could never pull off the old-fashioned kind of running away. That is, running away in the heat of anger with a knapsack on her back. She didn't like discomfort; even picnics were untidy and inconvenient: all those insects and the sun melting the icing on the cupcakes. Therefore, she decided that her leaving home would not be just running from somewhere but would be running to somewhere. To a large place, a comfortable place, an indoor place, and preferably a beautiful place. And that's why she decided upon the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
Claudia Kincaid, our heroine, wants to run away, but she knows she can't do it alone so she recruits her younger brother, Jamie, to go with her. He may just be her favorite brother, and he's definitely her richest brother. Their plan is successful...and they do manage to have quite the adventure.
I really, really liked this one. I thought it was great fun. I loved Claudia. I loved Jamie. I loved the writing of this one. I loved the way we got to know the characters. This brother-sister relationship is done so well. I love that I can relate to both Claudia and Jamie. While we don't get to know anything really about the rest of the Kincaid family--about the parents, about the other kids, we do get to know these two very, very well! Which was enough for me!
Here is one of my favorite scenes between the two:
Upon their return to the museum, Claudia informed Jamie that they should take advantage of the wonderful opportunity they had to learn and to study. No other children in all the world since the world began had had such an opportunity. So she set forth for herself and for her brother the task of learning everything about the museum. One thing at a time. (Claudia probably didn't realize that the museum has over 365,000 works of art. Even if she had, she could not have been convinced that learning everything about everything was not possible; her ambitions were as enormous and as multi-directional as the museum itself.) Every day they would pick a different gallery about which they would learn everything. He could pick first. She would pick second; he third; and so on. Just like the television schedule at home. Jamie considered learning something every day outrageous. It was not only outrageous; it was unnecessary. Claudia simply did not know how to escape. He thought he would put a quick end to this part of their runaway career. He chose the galleries of the Italian Renaissance. He didn't even know what the Renaissance was except that it sounded important and there seemed to be an awful lot of it. He figured that Claudia would soon give up in despair.Jamie's choice of the Italian Renaissance leads them on their biggest adventure yet. It leads them to a statue. A statue that may have been done by Michelangelo. A small statue of an angel that they learn was donated by a Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Once they become curious about this statue, once they decide they want to "solve" the mystery, well, that's when their adventure finds a purpose, a dream.
When she gave Jamie first pick, Claudia had been certain that he would choose Arms and Armor. She herself found these interesting. There was probably two days' worth of learning there. Perhaps, she might even choose the same on the second day. (47)
Happiness is excitement that has found a settling down place, but there is always a little corner that keeps flapping around. (151)
© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews