Can you believe I’ve never read this book before? This Newbery winner is a heavy hitter, well-known and well-loved by the generation that grew up with it. Except me. But now I see why it has such a reputation.
Claudia Kincade is a sixth grader who is so unhappy with the routine of her life that she decides to shake things up. She recruits her third grade—and rich—brother and runs away to the Metropolitan Museum in New York. (My only critique is that brother Jamie seems much older than nine.) At first it’s all about the adventure: stashing their bags in a sarcophagus, hiding in the public bathroom after visiting hours, sleeping in a display bed from the 1600’s, rationing their money, and bathing in the fountain. But Claudia doesn’t really like to be uncomfortable, and she misses the clean smell of freshly washed laundry. The constant hunger gets tiresome as well.
Then the children discover Angel, a small marble statue that may or may not have been sculpted by Renaissance great Michaelangelo. It’s under investigation by the museum experts. Claudia becomes fascinated with the statue. She has to find out the truth about it. As she searches, she also learns that her running away, her seeking, wasn’t really about the adventure at all. It was about finding out what makes her Claudia.
From the Mixed-up Files is beautifully written, thought provoking, and fun. I loved the adventure. I would have been all about hiding out in a museum for a week when I was a kid. (It’s still a little tempting now.) But as an adult, I really got on board with the conflict raging within Claudia. In a large family, she wants to feel special. She wants to know she’s an important individual. She does find out what makes her unique, but her search becomes as important as the answers. I just wouldn’t recommend her methods. Ages 9+
From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E. L. Konigsburg, 1967