From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
This book has been reviewed by Focus on the Family Thriving Family, a marriage and parenting magazine.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Claudia Kincaid is tired of the injustices and monotony in her life. She decides if she runs away, her parents will learn to appreciate her. She chooses 9-year-old Jamie, the wealthiest of her younger brothers, to accompany her. Intelligent and thorough, Claudia makes a detailed plan of their trip. They’ll travel to New York City and hide out in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. With his carefully-saved allowance and ill-won card-playing money, Jamie bankrolls most of the adventure.
Their petty arguments over grammar and finances begin to fade as they settle into life at the museum. They learn how to hide from the guards, sleep on ancient beds and bathe in the fountain. During the day, they slip into tour groups and learn more about the museum.
One day, following a sizeable crowd, the children find themselves standing before a small angel statue. Claudia, immediately taken by its beauty, insists they discover why it’s garnering so much attention. They learn that the curators of the museum suspect that Michelangelo himself may have created the piece, though it was purchased at auction from the collection of a Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler for a few hundred dollars.
Claudia and Jamie begin researching the angel statue. They visit the library to read about Michelangelo, and they examine the statue after the museum has closed. Claudia is particularly preoccupied with solving the mystery of who created this statue. She believes if she does, she can return home a different person.
When guards move the statue, the kids see a three-circle imprint on the velvet where it sat. They learn the design is Michelangelo’s stonemason mark. They share their discovery with the museum staff in an anonymous letter sent from a post office box. A few days later, they receive a respectful reply. A public relations representative thanks them for their interest but says the curators already knew about the mark. It still does not definitively prove that the statue was Michelangelo’s.
Claudia is deeply disappointed, and Jamie suggests they go home. Claudia convinces him to spend their last dollars on a trip to Farmington, Conn. There, they can visit Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and perhaps learn the true origin of the angel statue.
Mrs. Frankweiler recognizes the children from the paper as the Greenwich runaways. She offers to give them information about the statue if they’ll tell her about their adventures in New York City. She gives the children an hour to riffle through her mixed-up files, and they find her research on it in the nick of time.
Mrs. Frankweiler’s findings, including a sketch of the angel statue bearing Michelangelo’s signature, seem to indicate he made the statue. The old woman says they may never know for sure, but she is convinced he did it. She tells the children if they’ll keep the secret, she’ll leave the sketch to them in her will. After tape recording the children’s story of life at the museum, she has her chauffer take them home.
Claudia and Jamie end their journey satisfied with their secret. They vow to visit Mrs. Frankweiler often and treat her like a grandmother. Readers learn from Mrs. Frankweiler’s narration that Claudia and Jamie are the grandchildren of her lawyer, Saxonberg.
While researching Michelangelo's works, Jamie asks the difference between angels and cupids. Claudia tells him angels wear clothes and wings while cupids are naked and pagan. She tells him pagan means worshiping idols instead of God. On Sunday, Claudia wonders if they should try to go to church. They decide instead to go to a chapel in the Middle Ages area. There, they kneel and say the Lord's Prayer. They also apologize for stealing a newspaper.
Other Belief Systems
When Jamie is afraid the guards will catch Claudia, he tries to send her a telepathic message to stay put. He tries his telepathy later on a guard, urging the man to move on so they won't be spotted.
Claudia thinks Jamie is leading them into the Renaissance room because many of the Italians of the time painted bosomy naked bodies. Jamie isn't concerned with the pictures. He's simply trying to find a place he hopes will bore Claudia.
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Gambling: Jamie plays cards with his friend Bruce for small amounts of money. Jamie admits he wins by cheating. Mrs. Frankweiler impresses Jamie when she tells him she won the angel statue in a game of cards. He asks her if she cheated. She replies that when the stakes are high, she never cheats. She considers herself too important to do that.
Lying: Claudia and Jamie lie to guards so no one will know they're living in the museum. Jamie tells a story about their school exploding when someone on the U.N. tour questions them.
Theft: The kids steal a newspaper so they can read about the angel statue. While bathing in the museum fountain, they realize the bottom is covered with coins. They collect the change and use it to help fund their adventure.
Other: Claudia warns Jamie not to eat a candy bar he finds on a landing. She says it might be poisonous or filled with marijuana. If he eats it, he'll either end up dead or a drug addict. She says it was probably left there by a drug pusher who is trying to get little kids addicted.
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Readability Age Range
8 to 12
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division
Newbery Award, 1968; William Allen White Children's Book Award, 1970