From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
I LOVED this book when I was a child. I am the oldest child, so I probably found myself identifying with Claudia and I admired her initiative. But I would have never run away from home – as I would have been terrified! I loved how organized, thoughtful and thorough she was in her preparations to run away to the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. This is a fun book and a good opportunity for connections to art as well!
There are some challenges in reading and teaching this book with children, especially in terms of context. The setting is New York City, and for the girls in my group, this was difficult. None of the girls had ever traveled to New York and since we do not live in a large city, it was difficult for the girls to picture taking the trains, subways, etc and traveling around a large city. Not to mention the museum itself. But challenges are okay! Reading this book was an opportunity to discuss some life lessons and learn about New York City, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the famous artist Michaelangelo.
Maps can be very useful with this book, as they will provide much needed visuals. Students can learn a lot about New York City and the setting by examining and discussing maps. Reading this book is also a great opportunity for students to create their own maps of the important elements of the novel. Mapping out the museum and the route from the museum to the subway/train/post office/home is an excellent exercise for students which will help their comprehension.
A subway map is an interesting image for kids to discuss. How do we read a map and more specifically, how do we read a subway map? Why is this map important for traveling in New York City?
Next, ask students to think about what items they would include on a map of Claudia and Jamie’s adventure. Create a own map of their travels – and don’t forget the statue!
Questions Worth Asking
Why does Claudia run away? What are Jamie’s reasons for running away with her? What kind of person is Claudia? Would Claudia make a good friend? Why?
Why does the Angel statue become so important to Claudia? Why does she want to find out if the statue was created by Michaelangelo? Describe Mrs. Frankweiler. What kind of person is she? Why does she donate the statue to the museum but decide not to give them the important papers that she owns? What does this tell the reader about Mrs. Frankweiler? Why does she create a “task” for the kids instead of giving them the papers? What does Mrs. Frankweiler teach Claudia and Jamie?
Why does Claudia select the Metropolitan Museum of Art for her destination? What is the museum like at night? What makes it a good place for hiding? How is the museum different from the school and home world that Claudia & Jamie are escaping?
Life involves learning lessons (and not just at school). What are some of the things that Claudia and Jamie learn because of their experience running away from home and hiding at the Metropolitan Museum of Art? What does Claudia learn about being happy? About her family and her home? What does she learn through the angel and Michaelangelo? Claudia wants to experience change before she returns home – what do you think? Does Claudia change? How? And why?
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Since Claudia and Jamie spend a great deal of time with the “Angel” of Michaelangelo as they search for clues as to the statue’s authenticity, this seemed like a good time to learn more about Michaelangelo.
More Resources for Teaching From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler