From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg was first published in 1967. Since then, a few changes have been made at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Admission is no longer free, and the fountain in which the Kincaid children bathe has been removed. Museum staff has been asked so many questions about this novel that they devoted an entire issue of their publication MuseumKids to it; it is commonly referred to as the “Mixed-Up Files Issue.” The novel won the Newbery Medal in 1968 and, though he has been asked repeatedly, the author says he will never write a sequel.
Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler sends a file to her lawyer, Saxonberg. This file contains the following story, since he will not pay close enough attention to it when he is with her; he is too busy thinking about his grandchildren and other things. It also contains some changes to her will, which she is sure he will understand once he reads the file, which contains all the pieces of this story, put together like a jigsaw puzzle.
Claudia Kincaid is not fond of messy or uncomfortable things, so when she decides to run away she looks for someplace neat and comfortable and beautiful—such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. She has saved enough money for herself and one other person to go with her, and she chooses Jamie, the second youngest of her three brothers. He is generally quiet, sometimes good for a laugh, and he saves his money. She does not tell Jamie about her plan until she has enough set aside to make her plan a reality, which takes long enough that she almost forgets why she is leaving. She is leaving because, as the oldest, she is being treated unfairly. She has to unload the dishwasher and set the table for dinner—on the same night—while her brothers do nothing. Claudia is leaving because of the injustice and the monotony. Her life is so predictable, and she is tired of being the straight-A student who is stuck in the same old routine every night. After saving her allowance for more than three weeks, twelve-year- old Claudia and nine-year-old Jamie will run away by taking a train into the city. Since she plans on coming home again after her family has developed some “Claudia appreciation,” she also has to save money for their return trip train fare. New York City is not so very far away; in fact, her father commutes from their home in Greenwich to the city every day. The crimes committed against Claudia certainly warrant a longer trip, but she loves the city and knows it is a good place to hide. She has planned well and sacrificed buying her favorite hot fudge sundaes so they will have enough money for their trip.
One Saturday Claudia is doing a chore she hates—emptying all the trash cans in the house—but discovers a train ticket with one ride left on it which the cleaning lady must have thrown away as trash. Because she and Jamie are young enough to ride for half fare, they will not have to purchase tickets to travel. Claudia decides they will leave on Wednesday and asks Jamie to sit by her on the bus so she can tell him about her plan. He is not thrilled at the summons and asks why she cannot pick on one of her other brothers. After she shares her plan, though, he appreciates being the chosen one.
Claudia tells him they are leaving on Wednesday because it is music lesson day. Not only can they pack their clothes in their book bags, but she can use her violin case and Jamie can use his trumpet case. When she asks Jamie how much money he has, he is hesitant to answer. When he finally tells her he has $24.43, Claudia knows she chose the right brother (for she only has $4.18). She also discovers the running card game Jamie and his friend have on the bus is actually her brother’s primary means of income—because he cheats. Claudia says she will give him a paper filled with all the details of their trip, which he must destroy after reading.
Jamie finds his detailed list on Tuesday night and carries out...
(The entire section is 4,420 words.)