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

From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler is a 1968 novel by the children's author E. L. Konigsburg, won her first Newbery Medal.

Eleven-year-old Claudia Kincade is feeling underappreciated by her parents and the world in general. The best way to teach them a lesson, she decided, is to run away from home for a while. But what she hates more than being underappreciated is being uncomfortable, and so she chooses to run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City (for all those poofy Marie Antoinette beds to sleep in) and drags along her nine-year-old brother Jamie (for his $24.43).

Thus begins the adventure of a lifetime for both of them, between hiding from museum security in the bathroom, doing laundry, and scrounging for change in the museum fountain, Claudia becomes obsessed with a statue sold to the museum for $225 that may or may not be a Michaelangelo.

And why is the eccentric multi-millionaire Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler writing such a long letter to her dear lawyer Saxonberg?

This story provides examples of:

  • Brother–Sister Team: Claudia and Jamie
  • Catch-Phrase: Jamie's is "Oy, baloney!" Turns out to be helpful for Claudia to remember the city of Bologna, Italy
  • Eccentric Millionaire: Frankweiler, she sells a genuine Michaelangelo to the Met for pocket change then refuses to provide authentication just so that she can watch the curators squirm.
  • Free-Range Children: Police and journalist reaction for missing children is really muted in the 1960s compared to today.
  • Grammar Nazi: Claudia has a bit of a habit of correcting her brother's grammar.
  • Long Title: From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. E. L. Konigsburg is fond of such titles in general.
  • Senseless Violins: Claudia and Jamie packs most of their clothes in a viola and trumpet case.
  • Swiss Cheese Security: The Met overnight security.
  • Unusual Euphemism: Jamie's favorite minced oath is "BALONEY", which provides Claudia the Eureka Moment required to solve the Michaelangelo mystery.