From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
From the Mixed-UP Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
E. L. Konigsburg (1968)
Read to: 4th grade
Read independently: 5th grade
This is a very enjoyable story. It might be easy to become aghast at the idea of children running away and hiding in a museum for several nights but without such an adventure the true character development wouldn't occur and the message wouldn't be conveyed to the reader. So be a little forgiving in the premise in order to get to the moral.
Claudia, a 6th grader, decides to run away due to the injustice of being the oldest child and the oldest girl. She has three younger brothers and chooses the middle one, Jamie, as her companion because he's good with money. She plans the trip with a final destination of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, a short train ride away.
Like any siblings they have an occasional spat but are quick to overcome it and apologize. Given the pressure they must've felt to be suddenly and solely responsible for their own well-being and safety - I think they did remarkably well.
In addition to the adventure they become intrigued by the mysterious origins of a statue. The story moves quickly and pleasantly. Frequently I envisioned using the book in an upper-elementary school classroom or even an older ESL classroom. There are some great vocabulary words to discuss as well as Claudia's penchant for pointing out grammatical errors. They keep careful accounting of their money which could incorporate a math lesson. They write letters which could be great starting prompts for creative writing assignments and there are also opportunities for historical research and art appreciation.
On page 75 Jamie found a candy bar and Claudia cautioned him against eating it because, "It's probably poisoned or filled with marijuana, so you'll eat it and become either dead or a dope addict."
On page 86 there is a reference to thumb sucking being like homesickness. "It's what happens when you're not very sure of yourself." / "Or not very well trained," Claudia added.
On page 91, upon seeing a ring pattern crushed into some velvet Claudia suggests the workers had been drinking beer. Jamie suppoted her by adding, "most people drink beer".
Mrs. Frankweiler is a very insightful woman. I particularly liked her observation on pg. 140, "The adventure is over. Everything gets over and nothing is ever enough. Except the part you carry with you. It's the same as going on a vacation. Some people spend all their time on vacation taking pictures so that when they get home they can show their friends evidence that they had a good time. They don't pause to let the vacation enter inside of them and take that home."