Sunday, September 6, 2015

Sunday Classics: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiller

This book was first published in the year I was born, and I am OLD, so it qualifies as a classic and I am glad that I picked it up again because all I remembered from my little girl at the Manoa Public Library in Honolulu memory is that I liked the book, but I could not have said anything about what it was about all of these years later. I think good books are like good teachers. What you remember is how they made you feel, not necessarily the specific lessons they were trying to teach.

In short:
When suburban Claudia Kincaid decides to run away, she knows she doesn't just want to run from somewhere she wants to run to somewhere--to a place that is comfortable, beautiful, and preferably elegant. She chooses the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Knowing that her younger brother, Jamie, has money and thus can help her with the serious cash flow problem she invites him along. 

Once settled into the museum, Claudia and Jamie, find themselves caught up in the mystery of an angel statue that the museum purchased at an auction for a bargain price of $250. The statue is possibly an early work of the Renaissance master Michelangelo, and therefore worth millions. Is it? Or isn't it? Claudia is determined to find out. This quest leads Claudia to Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, the remarkable old woman who sold the statue and to some equally remarkable discoveries about herself.

My thoughts:
At the end of my book is a piece that E.L. Konigsburg writes in 2002 at the 35th anniversary of the book. She talks about what still exists in the Kincaids' New York and what exists now in the post-9/11 New York. I guess that students reading this now will find the life of the Kincaids somewhat dated, but to me I could visualize my recent visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and I could vividly imagine how two kids could hide out in a city like New York and not attract too much attention. Most importantly, the message is timeless. It reminds me in an odd way of Paradise Lost by Milton. The situation and the outcome is nowhere near, but the conflict within Satan and within Claudia are very similar in that they must come to realize that they carry the secret to their happiness (and their personal hell in Satan's case) within themselves.

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