Wednesday, August 7, 2013

What 2 Read Wednesday:
"The eyes are the windows of the soul...."
Book Review: From the Mixed-Up Files of
Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
by E.L. Konigsburg

"The eyes are the windows of the soul.... 
If someone was to look into your eyes, 
what would you want them to see?"
E.L. Konigsburg, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

When I was much younger (probably late elementary, though I honestly don't remember), I read a fantastical book about a girl and her brother who ran away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and attempted to solve a mystery about whether or not Michelangelo created a specific angel statute.  It was a fabulous book, but in those days, I read so much, checking the maximum number of books from the library on a weekly basis, that eventually I forgot about it.  

However, as I have started reading more than just picture books to SC, I came across this book with a funny, long name called From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and everything came back to me.  I was so excited to share this book with SC, and was even more excited when we found out that SC and I could travel along with AC to New York City, and could visit the very museum that the main characters stayed it.

The 1968 Newbery Award winning novel From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler tells the story of 12 year old Claudia, who feels unappreciated as the oldest of four children, and decides that what she needs to do is run away.  However, instead of running away to just anywhere, she decides to run away in style, to "a large place, a comfortable place, an indoor place, and a beautiful place" (pg. 5): the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.  Being a planner, and understanding it might take some money to run away, she brings along her 9 year old brother Jaime, who has "saved almost every penny he got" (pg.6).

Upon arrival at the Met, Claudia and Jamie create a plan for how they will stay inside the building after closing, and scope out where they will sleep for the night.  The blend in with school groups because the tours are interesting, and to get free food in the cafeteria.  They hide in the bathrooms from the night guards, and sleep in a bed in the English Renaissance area that allegedly was the site of a grisly murder.  On the second day of their stay, they discover "The Angel," a marble statue the Museum acquired for only a few hundred dollars, that it has been speculated was carved by Michelangelo   Claudia decides that her and Jamie's purpose in running away has now become to discover whether or not Michelangelo was the artist, and to prove it to those running the Museum.  The rest of the novel follows their investigation and adventures, and it was thrilling to read, even all these years later.  SC loved it, as well.

I would recommend this novel as a read aloud for children who can sit for longer periods of time, or to be read alone by older elementary or middle school aged children.  However, I think that this story is fabulous for all ages and even adults can take something from it. 

Since we read From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler in preparation for heading to New York City, I wanted to highlight some of the picture books we also read before we headed out on this trip.  Our favorites were The Other Side of Town by Jon Agee and New York, New York! The Big Apple from A to Z by Laura Krauss Melmed, but we also checked out from the library and enjoyed all of those here.

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