Thursday, 3 September 2015

From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg

New Yorker 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 just be 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. 

Pages - 148
Published by Pushkin Children’s Books June 2015

Summary
Twelve-year old Claudia is frustrated with life at home and runs away to the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. with her younger brother, Jamie, who has the big advantage that he has money from cheating at cards. There they sleep in a bed owned by a queen, bathe in the restaurant fountain, using the money thrown into it to supplement their meagre finances. 

However, no sooner have Claudia and Jamie settled into their new home, than they are caught up in the mystery of an angel statue bought by the museum for the bargain price of $225. Is it in fact an as yet undiscovered work by Michelangelo, worth millions? Claudia is determined to find out, and her quest leads her to the remarkable, secretive Mrs. Frankweiler, who sold the statue to the museum - and to some equally remarkable discoveries about herself.
****

This is a children’s classic, a Newberry Award-wining book reissued after nearly fifty years – one I had not come across before. It is written from the point of view of an eccentric rich old lady who has sold a statue of an angel to the museum and tells the story of Claudia and Jamie’s adventure as they learn something new each day and outwit the guards to stay in the Museum each night after the visitors leave. It explores the quirky relationship between the siblings and follows their quest to prove whether the beautiful statue is, in fact, by Michelangelo and therefore invaluable. Jamie, a few years younger, is just after adventure and is ready to return home after a week but Claudia is desperate to become different in some way before she goes home and is convinced that it will happen if she manages to solve the mystery of the statue. 

It is a very well-written and intriguing story, thought-provoking and wryly humorous. Not only does it have adventure and mystery, but it provides a clever, thoughtful and feisty protagonist and an insight into the wonders and richness of the Met – or any other museum children might visit. And the meeting at the end with the eccentric Mrs. Basil E, Frankweiler is an entry into a whole new world and ideas. This is a clever, unique and most enjoyable read – I can see why it is a classic. 


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