[Reading] ➸ From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler By E.L. Konigsburg – Sharkmotorcyclehelmets.co.uk
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
26 December 2019
We expected to like this book a lot, on the whole we liked it, we found it well written and it kept us guessing what would happen.We enjoyed the start, the planning of running away was fun The idea of running away to a museum really appealed to us, when I was small I so wanted to spend a night in a museum and look around whilst it was dark and quiet, so I was really looking forward to this part We were both full of admiration that these runaways had remembered to take their musical instruments, full kudos for keeping up the practise whilst on the run view spoiler oh it was a trick to stow away their clothes on a music lesson day hide spoiler My oldest grandson Philip is an avid reader, a trait my wife and I like to encourage He d encountered this Newbery award winner in his school library, and wanted to own a copy, so we gave him one for his 11th birthday last fall When he discovered that I d never read it it was first published in 1967, by which time I was in high school, and focusing my reading on grown up books , he wanted to share it with me, so he loaned me his copy Last year, he likewise introduced me to another kid s classic, Stone Fox I d heard of the book, but had no real clue what it was about.Elaine Konigsburg like some other women writers in the earlier decades of the past century, when the book trade was male dominated, she hid her gender behind her initials became an instant success in children s literature with this essentially debut novel It was technically the second one she had published, but both books were submitted at the same time That s a deserved tribute to her skill as a writer the craftsmanship of the book is of a pretty high order.As we learn from the outset through a short cover letter, the body of the book is supposedly a narrative composed by Mrs Basil E Frankweiler to her longtime and long suffering lawyer, Saxonburg, to explain a change she wants made to her will She s a childless 82 year old widow, as rich as Croesus, and definitely eccentric, imperious and opinionated Ordinarily, she s not the sort of narrator many kids would readily relate to but she immediately focuses her tale on two kids, Claudia age 11 and her nine year old brother Jamie In fact, it s not immediately made clear what relation Mrs Frankenweiler is going to have to the events of her story That s a deft move on the author s part, giving child readers child protagonists to relate to, and a bit of mystery as a hook Claudia s made up her mind to temporarily run away from her home in the New York City suburb of Greenwich, dragging Jamie along for the ride to get the benefit of his assiduously saved allowance money, and plans to stay in New York s Metropolitan Museum of Art an actual institution that s still there today for the duration of her adventure The expedition will involve both children in a mystery surrounding a Renaissance statuette of an angel that may or may not have been sculpted by Michelangelo and in some life lessons and self discovery as well.Like most books aimed at this age group older pre teens , this chapter book is a short 182 pages of main text quick read It s also well written, with the kind of story line that keeps you turning pages compulsively to see what happens next The author had a genius for characterization the two kids are extremely realistic embodiments of children their age while being nicely differentiated individuals with distinctive personalities and speaking styles She also laces her writing with an undercurrent of dry humor that frequently crops out Both the humor and the characterizations, as well as the subtleties of the psychological content, IMO, might actually be perceived and appreciated better by adult readers than by kids The plotting isn t predictable, and we get one surprise near the end that fits like a jigsaw puzzle and was foreshadowed by clues hidden in plain sight, but which most readers won t see coming On the whole, it s a kid s book that can hold adult interest Still, I think I might have liked it better as a child than as an adult reader Why, you ask As I said, Claudia and Jamie are very realistic child characters I could recognize a lot of traits of my grandkids in them But these include a lot of traits that even though I love my grandkids are very calculated to drive me up the wall, and I expect many other parents and grandparents have the same reaction These kids aren t evil or cruel, but they do have a basically self centered orientation and ethical cluelessness at times, an aversion to responsibility and a feeling that mild chores are an insufferable imposition Add to this a capacity for sibling rivalry thick enough to cut with a knife, and a willingness of a younger kid to check his brain at the door and let an older sibling lead him around by the nose into outrageous behavior that he should never even have considered Been there, see that every day want to scream at it The whole runaway scenario factors into this Claudia isn t an abused, unloved child trying to escape a horrible home life She s a pampered, well to do kid who doesn t think she s pampered enough, and just wants to run off to subject her family to a lesson in Claudia appreciation Yes, she mailed them a letter which they wouldn t get until at least the next day telling them not to worry as if they wouldn t Konigsburg keeps the adults in Claudia s family largely offstage, so that readers can put them out of mind But you don t put people you genuinely love out of mind, and you don t put them through hell just for purely selfish reasons and as a father and grandfather myself, whenever I d let myself think about it, I knew Claudia and Jamie were putting the adults in their lives through hell Yes, if I d been the parent, I d have been unspeakably thankful and relieved to get them back safe But I might also have grounded them for about 47 years, and possibly packed them off for a semester at a boarding military academy in northern Alaska as a lesson in family appreciation Okay, I might be exaggerating slightly for effect That colored my reaction to the tale in a way that it might not have as a kid It s also why I recommend the book only for mature kids, who wouldn t blindly consider these characters role models and be encouraged to run away themselves Interestingly, a book I read last year, Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick b 1966 has a similar plot structure his protagonist is a runaway who sets out for, and hides out in, another real life New York museum the American Museum of Natural History Selznick isn t a Goodreads author, so I don t know if he ever read Konigsburg s classic but I think it s possible that he did, and that it may have been one of his literary influences The difference between the two books, though, is instructive and helps to explain why I rated the later book higher Selznick s protagonist Ben manages his escape in a way that won t leave his family members insane with worry, and does tell a family member where he s going And he has a psychological need to go, to deal with a question that s crucially important to him in learning who he is it s not just a whim, and he doesn t pull a nine year old sibling along into the venture.The edition of this book that I read was a 35 year anniversary reprint, with an afterword by the author, which explained a bit about the models for the characters in her own family, the changes in New York City and the Museum itself since she wrote, some of the inspiration for the story, the reason she never wrote a sequel and I agree with that decision, because I think this is a story that s truly artistically complete in itself, as it stands etc I enjoyed this feature, and felt it enhanced the book At the time, she mourned the recent passing of both her husband and her longtime editor, who d both loved the book Sadly, Mrs Konigsburger herself passed away as well, in 2013 But this book alone would be a worthy legacy and she wrote other prize winning tales as well , and I give it a solid rating of three earned stars 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 AlongOnce 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 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 This was my son s first book he read entirely in English he is a rapid read of books in French already so I felt I needed to read it too What a pleasant surprise We both loved Jaime and Claudia and their adventures while running away and camping out in the Metropolitan Museum in NYC It is a touching book with lots of life lessons my favorite quote is Happiness is excitement that has found a settling place, but there is always a corner of it that keeps flapping around P 155 I have to thank NH Senzai s excellent Shooting Kabul for referring to this book because otherwise I would have missed it I would consider this required children s reading for the timelessness of its characters and the nostalgic value of what life was like in Manhattan back in the late 60s Splendid For his autumnal yet incandescent family tragicomedy, The Royal Tenenbaums, Wes Anderson drew inspiration from a handful of literary works remarkably possessed of whimsy and insightful wit Chief among these is the late J D Salinger s short but utterly perceptive book, Franny and Zooey, whose title characters are members of the Glass family, the basis for the dysfunctional Tenenbaums in Anderson s film The eccentric director, drawing further attention to his enchantment with Salinger s fictional family, even went so far as to pattern a quirk of one of the central characters in The Royal Tenenbaums after a scene in Franny and Zooey, where Zooey, the male protagonist, spends an inordinate stretch of time in a bathtub Anderson did the same, that is, cutting out a scene from a beloved book and stitching it into his film, to the 1968 Newbery Medal winning novel by E L Konigsburg, From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler In a brief episode of childhood rebellion in Anderson s film, two of the Tenenbaum siblings run away from home and live in, of all places, a museum They must have read Konigsburg s novel Anderson has, certainly for that s exactly what Claudia and Jamie Kincaid, the leads in From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler, did From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler hereafter referred to simply as Mixed Up Files, despite the book s delightful roller coaster of a title is narrated with a quaint sense of humor by a wealthy old lady named Mrs Basil E Frankweiler Mrs Frankweiler s purportedly true story sets off when Claudia, fed up with being unfairly treated in the Kincaid household in Greenwich, Connecticut, and tired of the monotony of everything decides to teach her parents a lesson in Claudia appreciation by running away from home Considering her very low tolerance for discomfort, she chooses the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City as her hideaway, and considering her very low supply of money, she persuades her penny pinching brother, Jamie, to join her With the snazzy art museum as their home cum playground, sister and brother make the most out of their newfound freedom, and Konigsburg, via Mrs Frankweiler, seems to make the experience of being away from the safety and convenience afforded by home a tad too easy and pleasant for her protagonists, who attempt to live on less than twenty five dollars and a few sets of clothes for God knows how long in the Met, an otherwise comfortable dwelling place They hide in the bathrooms at opening and closing time to evade the museum personnel, sleep in ancient canopy beds while pretending to be 16th century monarchs, bathe in the restaurant fountain while picking up wish coins to add to their dwindling funds, and mingle with visitors for their daily dose of art history But these aren t small plot conveniences so much as products of the complementary nature of Claudia and Jamie s individual strengths most notably, she s excellent at planning while he s good at not spending And so, even as they bicker mildly about mostly trivial matters, they become thick as thieves The greatest adventure of our mutual lives, as Claudia enticingly described their stint as truants and runaways when she was just trying to enlist Jamie, becomes just that when they stumble upon a mystery surrounding the museum s latest acquisition, a statue of an angel believed to be the handiwork of none other than Michelangelo Buonarroti Claudia and Jamie, as inquisitive and ingenious as any kids of their age he s nine years old she s one month away from being 12 would dare to be, and seeing that they re right where the object mired in mystery is, sets out to uncover the angel s secret, if any This is no The Da Vinci Code or Angels and Demons for kids, thank you very much In this little book where most of the events, big and small, also happen in a famous museum and an Italian Renaissance man also gets plunged into the story, there s no room for bloated conspiracy theories and cheap thrills In the first place, they re not what you d expect from a sophisticated narrator like Mrs Frankweiler, who at old age has amassed great wisdom and a great deal of items for her art collection besides, as a newspaper article Claude and Jamie chance upon states and as the proud octogenarian herself boasts around the time she finally enters the story as a supporting but not insignificant character while retaining her role as narrator, of course What we re treated to instead is a charming and smartly plotted novel that at first blush seems focused on the excitement of being a defiant and carefree youth and later appears entangled in the revelations, impressive in spite of their scant amount, hatched by the pair in their investigation about the true maker of an antique sculpture But as they go about their kid detective work they, Claudia especially, unknowingly encounter a path towards self discovery, and Mixed Up Files ultimately becomes fixed on an eye opening search for what makes a person different and beautiful inside a living work of art, in other words Mixed Up Files is structurally a written account addressed to Mrs Frankweiler s lawyer In her letter prefacing her main narrative, she discloses that I ve written it to explain certain changes to my last will and testament You ll understand those changes and a lot of other things much better after reading it There s no doubt that her lawyer did understand I don t come in until much later, she continues, but never mind You ll find enough to interest you until you do Wes Anderson sure did, and anyone who has ever been a child and who goes on to read and re read Mixed Up Files does, sure enough Originally posted here. 99c Kindle sale, Oct 23, 2017 This short novel is a classic of middle grade fiction, and the 1968 Newbery Award winner Eleven year old Claudia decides to run away from home She was tired of arguing about whose turn it was to choose the Sunday night seven thirty television show, of injustice, and of the monotony of everything.You can tell this is set in an earlier time, before our media entertainment options multiplied Because her little brother Jamie is a lot better at saving money than she is, she invites him to run away with her And because she wants to run away to somewhere beautiful and elegant, she chooses to run away to the NYC Metropolitan Museum of Art They hide when the museum closes for the evening, and then have the place pretty much to themselves at night.But then Claudia and Jamie come upon a new MOMA acquisition a lovely angel statue donated by one Mrs Basil E Frankweiler Could it be a Michelangelo sculpture The art experts aren t sure And suddenly Claudia has found a mystery she deeply wants to solve, something that may alter her plans.It s a short, enjoyable MG story, and I ve had a paperback copy of it since I was a young teen It s survived a few rereads and bookshelf purges over the years, so this one was a keeper for me It really captures the thoughts and feelings of pre teens A wealthy older lady, Mrs Frankweiler, narrates the entire story for reasons that become apparent later on I loved her dry humor and no nonsense demeanor She reminded me of one of those sharp minded, crusty, but ultimately kind dowager duchesses that occasionally grace the pages of my Regencies. There are certain, special books that I don t want to give up once finished I guess to prolong the separation and perhaps to somehow physically absorb whatever magic it possesses, I ll find myself pressing my palms against the book, sandwiching it It doesn t happen very often But it did happen with this book.I had never read this book growing up But I m so glad that I finally got around to it.What is it that makes this book so wonderful Let s begin with Mrs Basil E Frankweiler s clever narration Her voice like the character is frosty and matter of fact but only on the surface There s also a warm undercurrent that shows the esteem she has for these kids and their adventure.Then add to that the relationship between Claudia and her brother Jamie It s terrific and so well done Like many siblings, their dynamic is a balancing act between affection and irritation, respect and disdain.And then you ve got the cool factor to the story Who hasn t thought about interacting, let alone living, with the artifacts in a museum The author clearly respects kids, a must if you want to create decent children s literature By allowing Claudia and Jamie to treat not only the Met but New York City as their home and playground and not get caught exemplifies Konigsburg s apparent belief in how capable and astute children can be.And like all great children s literature, the book possesses a wisdom, a lesson, and a worldly vision that will benefit the reader young or old and provide him with a better understanding of his surroundings There s a bittersweetness to this book that I can t quite put my finger on Why was I teary eyed at the end of this book Was it because I felt compassion for the childless Mrs Frankweiler who seemed to have finally found the family that had escaped her before The portrayal of a New York and the Met that will never be again and that I m sorry I missed The conclusion s truth in the importance of having secrets and wanting to feel special I think I was just sad to have this one end. 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 you If you never take time out to let that happen, then you just 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 Here s a book that s lost none of its charm Siblings Claudia and Jamie run away together and live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art for a week, uncovering a Michelangelo related mystery and, along the way, learning a few things about family, grammar, and the joy of knowing secrets New York is a great city to hide out No one notices no one Like all the best children s books, its example is disgraceful The two children have only the dimmest sense of the panic they ve thrown their parents into they break into a museum repeatedly and they cheerfully throw backpacks into sarcophagi and sleep in historically valuable beds They also steal Children who follow their advice will be very bad children In addition, it s logistically improbable that any of this would work 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 a 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 But for engendering a sense of the mystery and magic of art, and a sense of adventure, it is exemplary And it s a wonderful New York book, no less today than it was in 1967 If you think of doing something in New York City, you can be certain that at least two thousand other people have that same thought And of the two thousand who do, about one thousand will be standing in line waiting to do it Which is why I don t do brunch. From the mixed up files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler, E.L Konigsburg Elaine Lobl Konigsburg was an American author and illustrator of children s books and young adult fiction Twelve year old Claudia Kincaid decides to run away from her home in suburban Connecticut, because she thinks her parents do not appreciate her and she doesn t like it She takes refuge in the Metropolitan Museum of Art the Met in New York City, with her brother Jamie She chooses Jamie as her companion partly because he has saved all his money With the help of an unused adult train fare card that she found in a wastebasket, Claudia finds a way to get to the museum for free using the commuter train and a very long walk 2009 1387 216 9789643495459 20. I first read this book when I was 7 going on 8 I read it, and then I read it again Then I read it again, and kept going until, according to my personal mythology, I had read it 11 times And then I stole my school s copy of the book I hadn t picked it up for many years since then, but this book is woven into my neural pathways every which way, and rereading it still makes me love it The Mixed Up Files drew me in with its details and paraphernalia the instrument cases the transistor radio mac and cheese and baked beans , something I always loved about runaway and or survival stories It introduced me to New York City the New York of the 1960s the Automat and appealed to my love of museums and old things I also loved the tone I knew even then when I was being talked down to, but Konigsburg clearly respects her readers and expects them to be smart The framing and Mrs F s voice made the book feel adult And then it hit me in the gut with its fully developed characters and its non preachy life lessons, subtly divulged I was never the sort of child who wanted to run away, really, but Claudia s simmering ennui and frustration and impotent rage hit me right away I had never really seen these feelings described on paper in this way, but I felt them, all the time Like Claudia, I was privileged, smart and loved, but I wanted something And I still do And this book is all about how that s kind of a good thing.The biggest life lesson I absorbed from this book, or maybe it s not a lesson so much as just a way of looking at the world, is the importance of maintaining and nurturing the integrity of your self and being an individual but not necessarily in any obvious way , while recognizing other people s individuality and that their way of seeing the world is usually just as valid as yours I m not talking about different beliefs or clashing opinion so much as personalities Claudia and Jamie s relationship illustrates this beautifully This bit of wisdom is one of the most fundamental things I ve ever learned and also one of the hardest to live out.