Tuesday, May 3, 2011
From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E.L. Konigsburg
Claudia and her brother run away from home in style - to the Metropolitan Museum of Art! They sleep in the bed where a murder is supposed to have taken place, hide their things in a sarcophagus, and hide in the bathrooms (door just ajar, standing on the toilet) when the guards are making their rounds in the evenings. They bathe in the fountain and collect coins from the bottom to pay for food and laundry. It's delightful!
While they're there, the museum puts out a new acquisition - a small angel statue that may have been sculpted by Michaelangelo. Claudia and Jamie decide to solve the mystery. For Jamie, it's a detective story. But for Claudia, it's part of something bigger. Part of the reason she'd run away in the first place. She wants to be different somehow. I've enjoyed this book since the first time I read it, maybe in 4th grade, because it captures so elegantly the frustrated desire of a kid wanting more out of life - not that her existence isn't comfortable (it is), and not that she wants to be rich exactly (she doesn't, though I don't think she'd object). She wants more than just to be a kid, but not just to grow up. It's just a *wanting*.
There was a TV movie that came out in 1995, which I watched at the time and largely approved of, and there's also apparently a 1973 movie (with Ingrid Bergman!), which I haven't seen but will try netflixing! I think it probably works best in book form, though (don't they all?). The book is written in the form of a deposition, by Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (who sold the statue to the museum) to her lawyer, a Mr. Saxonberg (also, apparently, the children's grandfather), and I think her voice and commentary add a lot. She gives an adult perspective on a very kid experience, which makes it age well.
Plan a museum trip after you pick this one up - you'll totally want to. The MMA is only two hours away from me, I'm going to have to take advantage soon!