July 27, 2012

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

GENRE: Contemporary
HONORS: Newbery Medal

REVIEW: When 11-year-old Claudia Kincaid decides to leave home, she decides to do so in comfort, so she invites her 9-year-old brother Jamie, (who has saved all his money), to come with her. The two Kincaids follow Claudia's plan not to run away from home, but rather to run to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Jamie and Claudia take up residence at the museum, hiding in bathrooms and sleeping in antique beds, while displaying a level of intelligence and discipline that is admirable in kids their age. What follows is an adventure that, though quiet by 21st century standards, feels both true and engaging. Claudia and Jamie balance each other, for while Claudia is the planner, Jamie holds the purse-strings, resulting in a dynamic that is one of equals. The mystery of the angel statue, (which leads them to Mrs. Frankweiler's mixed-up files), keeps the narrative moving and gives Claudia and Jamie greater purpose. The result is an engrossing, quick read in which Claudia and Jamie gain a greater understanding of themselves and each other, in addition to discovering the statue's mysterious origins.

OPINION: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler has become a modern classic for a reason. Claudia and Jamie are fantastic, complicated characters. They are both flawed, but also remarkable in their ways, making them excellent role-models. Their relationship with each other - one of grudging respect and even admiration - is complex, requiring the reader to think beyond simple, stock brother / sister dynamics. Konisberg keeps the narrative calm, but taut - she has incredible control over her pacing and plot. It really is a must-read.

IDEAS: This is a book that respects it's reader. It's a great introduction to literary mysteries. Also wonderful for kids interested in New York, or those that need to read a Newbery book, but can't find one that interests them. Also a nice addition to a display for books on museums, adventures, art or mysteries. Fantastic book to discuss in class, as well.

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