Revisiting: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konisburg

Sorry for the lack of posting lately. I’ve been sick and the Phillies have been taking up a lot of my time.

But happily, I am feeling slightly better, and sadly the Phillies’ season is over, both which mean blogging with be back on track.

In my illness fog, I took the time to reread my favorite book from my childhood. I don’t think From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler was ever actually my favorite book. But it definitely hold the honor of being one of my favorite books for the longest.

Two siblings, Claudia and Jamie Kincaid, run away from their suburban life to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Living there a week, the two children initially have the desire to learn everything about everything in the museum, but with the discovery of a special sculpture, Claudia makes the executive decision for the children to learn everything about this sculpture. The sculpture is a new acquisition from one Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, known for her bizarre are eye and hodge-podge collection. Claudia and Jamie learn a lot about art, each other and what is means to have an identity.

As a child, I had a large reverence for museums. This hasn’t changed since I’ve grown up, but it started at a very young age. My family spent a lot of time going to the High Museum to see this painting:

Portrait of Anne, George Bellows, 1915

The little girl in the painting is my grandmother, who passed away before I was born. When we went to the High, we went to go see Grandma Anne. Maybe that is why the concept of  “museum as home” worked so well for me in the book.

Claudia also was the oldest girl in a family that lived in suburbia and all she ever wanted to be different. Plus, though Jamie is younger than Claudia, their relationship always reminded of me and my twin brother. She has the big adventurous plans and he is very practical.

But most of all, the biggest theme in the book is the idea that knowledge makes you special and different. Claudia learns a secret about a piece of art and then she gets to go home different. Though I didn’t know it at the time, this desire is eventually what would lead me to my interests in literature and art. I feel like when I research and study art and literature I find out secrets that aren’t apparent at the first glance.

This is one of only children’s books that I think really holds up for adults as well. It still makes me cry every time I read it.

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Filed under American, Literature

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