Saturday, May 24, 2014

From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (Book review)

Author: E.L. Konigsburg
Year: 1967
Genre: Adventure?

Reading Level: Intermediate

Summary: Eleven year old Claudia is a planner and she has big plans to run away, just long enough to get some appreciation from her family.  She recruits her younger brother Jamie and together they run away to the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.  There they find not just freedom but also a mysterious statue carved by Michelangelo--possibly.  Claudia is desperate to solve the mystery before returning to her normal life but that might not be so easy.

Red Flags: Runaway kids

My Rating: A-
I'm not sure why I never read this book as a kid.  I don't remember even hearing about it until an episode of The Office and I still didn't read it.  I think I would have loved it as a kid though and I enjoyed it now.  I really had no idea what it was about (the title is completely unhelpful in that regard) so the art history element was a nice surprise.  It had a sprinkle of insight at the unexpected end and while it felt a little brief, I can appreciate a brief book.  The characters are lively, the story is fun and on the whole, it's a delightful read for young and old. 

Children's books used to be so much more straight forward and simple, and I wonder if this would win the Newbery these days.  That's not to say the older winners weren't good, but these days I think there is more pressure to say Something Important about life to be considered a masterpiece.  As far as this book goes, even if it wouldn't get a Newbery now, I think modern readers would enjoy it just as much as those in the '60s and maybe that says more about a book than a Newbery medal.

Memorable Quotes:
"Claudia would have felt better if the letter had not been so polite.  A nasty letter or a sarcastic one can make you righteously angry, but what can you do about a polite letter of rejection?  Nothing, really, except cry.  So she did."--p. 116

"'I feel as if I jumped into a lake to rescue a boy, and what I thought was a boy turned out to be a wet, fat log....All wet for nothing.'"--p .117

"'Everything gets over, and nothing is ever enough.  Except the part you carry with you.  It's the same as going on 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.'"--p. 138

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