Today I’m catching up on reviews as I’m now my usual several books behind. So to begin my catch up, I am reviewing From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg.
This is my second Konigsburg novel that I’ve read this year although it actually won the Newbery Medal in 1968–nearly 30 years before The View from Saturday. I think it’s neat and rather impressive that Konigsburg won the Newbery twice and so far apart. I now officially own both of these books and am excited for my kids to read her books when they are older.
This novel is another fun story with a mystery that keeps you turning pages. However, it didn’t grip me right away like the first Konigsburg novel I read. It took me longer to get into than The View from Saturday, but I enjoyed it!
- Can I just start by saying how much I enjoy Konigsburg’s titles? They are so unique and often a mouthful. But I just think they are so fun! Great to get kids excited about reading books with such interesting titles.
- I want to go to the Met after reading this novel and possibly go back in time to experience NYC in the 1960’s when food was so cheap!
According to Goodreads,”When suburban Claudia Kincaid decides to run away, she knows she doesn’t just want to run from somewhere, she wants to run to somewhere — to a place that is comfortable, beautiful, and, preferably, elegant. She chooses the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Knowing her younger brother Jamie has money and thus can help her with a serious cash-flow problem, she invites him along. Once settled into the museum, Claudia and Jamie find themselves caught up in the mystery of an angel statue that the museum purchased at auction for a bargain price of $225. The statue is possibly an early work of the Renaissance master, Michelangelo, and therefore worth millions. Is it? Or isn’t it? Claudia is determined to find out. Her quest leads her to Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, the remarkable old woman who sold the statue, and to some equally remarkable discoveries about herself.“
I think the premise of the story is clever and also terrifying. Claudia’s plan to run away to somewhere is a fun spin on the classic children’s plan. And I love that she aims with sophisticated plans to go to the Met. Although, as a mother, it makes me nervous thinking about my kids running away like this. There wasn’t anything especially wrong with Claudia’s life or family. Perhaps it was a bit boring? She felt a bit like she deserved more attention. But I just felt so sad for her parents the whole time! Although the letter she sends telling them that she and Jamie are safe is pretty cute. She should have told them they were coming back though.
I loved the setting in the Met and the clever ways Claudia and Jamie slept, bathed, did laundry, and ate. Sleeping in the beds on display, storing their things in urns and sarcophagi and bathing in the restaurant fountain. It’s all very clever and Claudia proves her organizational and planning skills. I laughed out loud in the scene when they discover the coins in the fountain. Haha. And I wish food still cost so little! It’s amazing how little food costs for them. I think Jamie was my favorite of the two. I liked his quirks like cheating at cards and dangling sentences.
The highlight of the novel is the mystery surrounding the angel statue. I loved the connections between the Angel statue and Michelangelo. We learn a lot of details about Michelangelo’s life and his artistic habits. I love when Claudia and Jamie go to the library to do their research and when they insert themselves into different classes and groups of kids to learn at the museum. This book celebrates the value of art and history. I love that. At the center of this learning is Angel and the mystery of who created her. That was a fun mystery to unravel. And I enjoyed how it all comes together in the end.
The other highlight for me is the perspective from Mrs Basil E Frankweiler. This entire novel is written from the perspective of this woman, who you don’t actually meet until the end of the novel. For a long time, her significance in the story is a mystery like angel. She has a fun voice, and I enjoyed it as a different sort of point of view. I loved how feisty and confident she is both in her writings and in person. Her character connects the varying story lines and gives meaning to Angel’s mystery and to Claudia’s journey. Without Mrs Basil E Frankweiler, this book loses much of it’s magic.
Overall, I enjoyed this Newbery winner. The characters are memorable and the storytelling is clever and engaging. Lots of great nuggets of wisdom and truth in this book. Definitely a book to own!
Have you read any books by E. L. Konigsburg? Which are your favorites?
What are some of your favorite settings in middle grade fiction?
I read this Newbery Medal winner as a part of my Newbery Challenge.
I plan to read all 100 Newbery Medal winners by the end of 2022, the year the 100th winner is announced.