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

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
by E. L. Konigsburg
162 pp.     Atheneum     1967     $3.95

If there were such a thing as a recipe for a successful children’s book — for which we can be grateful there is not — this one would doubtless violate all the rules. The main characters are upper-middle-class suburban children from a very “good home.” They run away, but not because they are unhappy. Their story is told in the first person by a wealthy elderly lady — an art collector — as a letter to her lawyer. Such a description might put off the potential reader, but if it does the reader has missed not only one of the most original stories of many years but one of the most humorous and one with character wholly alive. I doubt that anyone who reads the book will ever again be able to enter the Metropolitan Museum of  New York, or any other great art museum, without thinking of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, of Claudia and Jamie, and of the mixed-up files. Claudia’s running away was most carefully considered. It was not done in the heat of anger but because she believed that her family took her for granted as the oldest child and the only girl and that they needed to lose her for a little while to appreciate her. She chose her middle brother as her companion chiefly because he could be depended upon to have money. For a place to run to that was indoors (Claudia liked to be comfortable) and would be pleasant and beautiful, she chose the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Not until their arrival did the children realize that their coming coincided with the showing of a new acquisition, a most beautiful little marble angel believed — but not proved — to be by Michelangelo. They adapted themselves most ingeniously to the museum and fell under the spell of the charming statue — Jamie had never before cared for anything there but the mummies and the armor — and found themselves trying to solve a mystery. Whatever you guess, you are probably wrong. RUTH HILL VIGUERS

Reviewed in the October 1967 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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