1968: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (wherein the title is better than the actual plot)

VERDICT: Treasure

Sally’s Rating: 3.5/5

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler is a funny, charming, and most of all entertaining look into the antics of two runaways who decide to live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Part mystery, part adventure, this book creates a tale that both adults and children can enjoy as it lets its readers indulge in the simplistic child’s fantasy of running away to a museum.

The main duo of Claudia and Jamie develop a great camaraderie as they plan their break in to the museum and find a way to stay there. Claudia’s over-the-top organization and thriftiness complement Jamie’s street smarts and pockets full of change. Their banter is both witty and amusing, easily depicting the kind of bickering that two best friends oftentimes do.

Humor is definitely what sells this book. Disregarding the ludicrous plot line of getting past security at a museum for a week, every chapter is interspersed with small annotations from the titular Mrs. Frankweiler, who is rather contemptuous of everyone else. She has several good zingers that accompany her candid remarks on how the world works. Claudia’s no-nonsense voice combined with Jamie’s talent for getting into trouble provides some amusement as well as they try to succeed in their goal.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler is a success because it is essentially wish fulfillment. Most children have probably fantasized about running away from home in the way these two children did. Claudia and Jamie get to live in the museum, take baths in the fountains where they find some free money, sleep on beds in the exhibits, and learn something new each day from the tour guides. They eventually get swept up in a mystery that is bigger than anything they have ever been involved with as they try to figure out if a statue was really created by Michelangelo. Through these two everyday characters, readers can live vicariously through their exploits and empathize with their love of learning about history.

While I enjoyed this book, nothing really makes it stand out from the countless other retellings of a similar plot. E. L. Konigsburg’s From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler is a book that is meant to entertain, which it does very well, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this book to any child, but it won’t leave a lasting impression on me.


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