Tuesday, March 31, 2009

From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

I didn't actually read From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler myself when I was a kid. The book, by E. L. Konigsburg, was read by my sixth grade teacher (one of my favorite teachers, who I am glad to say I still keep in touch with, more that a quarter of a century later) to the class (it is recommended for 8 to 12 year olds). I rediscovered this classic Newbery Award winner from 1968 while working on my M.Ed. The copy I purchased is a 35th anniversary edition with an afterword from the author.

For those of you unfamiliar with this book, it tells the story of Claudia Kincaid. She is nearly twelve, "the oldest child and the only girl and was subject to a lot of injustice". So, she decides to run away. However, in order to be successful, she has chosen her younger brother, Jamie, to go along with her. They live in Greenwich. They will go to New York City; the Metropolitan Museum of Art will be their hideout.

While in the Museum, they come across a beautiful marble statue of an angel. There is a mystery surrounding it: was it really carved by Michelangelo? The Museum acquired it at auction, and it had previously belong to Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler... Claudia and Jamie set out to solve the mystery...

Do Claudia & Jamie get found out? Claudia didn't plan on being gone forever; she just wanted to send a message to her parents. Can they discover the true origins of the Angel on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art? If you share this book with today's children, you could also have an interesting discussion about how things have changed since 1968. Claudia and Jamie don't have video games, cell phone or cable TV. Also, could a Claudia and Jamie do something like this today?

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