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

Capturing the charms of New York in the 1960's

Claudia Kincaid is 12-years-old, and a bit disgruntled. Bored with the ‘…sameness of each and every week’, she feels it’s time for a grand adventure. Something bold, original, and instructive (she is, after all, a Grade A student). How about running away to New York, to live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art? With the Met offering celebratory tours to mark 50 years since publication, E.L Konigsburg’s American Classic deserves to be better known on this side of the Atlantic.

A suburban girl, Claudia is drawn to the sparkle of New York City, and enlists the help of her 9-year-old brother Jamie,

I’ve picked you to accompany me on the greatest adventure of our mutual lives

Having posted a letter to their parents, explaining that they’re leaving home, and not to bother calling the FBI, Claudia and Jamie take the train to NYC, bamboozle the Met’s guards and take up residence there. A marvellous world of art and antiquity opens up to them. I particularly loved the strikingly illustrated scenes of them bathing in the Fountain of Muses, skinny dipping with the bronze water-sprites.

But of all the treasures the Met offers up to them, one captures Claudia’s imagination above all, a graceful statue of an angel with her arms folded. The statue’s creator is unknown but many experts believe it to be Michelangelo. Claudia is dazzled by this idea. This beautiful statue has been born of true greatness, and must therefore be Michelangelo’s. She determines to prove it.

How the siblings achieve this, and where Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler comes into it, is for the lucky reader to discover. Occasional forays out of the museum, leave readers with a rosily nostalgic glow for Manhattan in 1967. Horn and Hardart’s Automat! An adventure in itself.

‘I didn’t run away to come home the same’, says Claudia. A captivating read.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler is published by Pushkin Childrens Books, 160 pages.

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