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

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.


NYCsubwayMaps 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

Met Home Website

Met Egyptian Art website

“A ‘New’ Michaelangelo at the 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.

Hey Kids, Meet Michaelangelo   This page includes a printable/downloadable kid-friendly biography

Pinterest Board – Michaelangelo for kids (information and projects)

Pinterest Board – Michaelangelo (more projects and lessons for kids)

Mr. Nussbaum Blog – Michaelangelo information

Art History Mom Blog – Michaelangelo

Meet the Masters: Michaelangelo

More Resources for Teaching From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

Scholastic website/questions

Schoolhouse lesson plan & extension activities

Simon & Schuster Author Website & Reading Guides

New Yorker: Postscript E.L. Konigsburg


2 Comments Post a comment
  1. This was one of my absolute favourite books as a child, and I recently used it as a book option in one of my college English for Child Studies courses. The student who chose it was not impressed. We live in a big city, so he had no trouble identifying with the context, but he found the story boring! He was a good student who liked reading, so it made me reflect – how could a book I had loved so powerfully (and still do; I was as delighted by it when I reread it for the course as I had ever been) be boring to anyone?? When I thought about it, I couldn’t think of any boys I’d known who’d loved it, and I also wondered if the historical context was challenging. Also, maybe the central mystery concerning the statue is not as compelling to everyone as it was to me…


    March 8, 2015
  2. I do think the historical context is a bit challenging (the typewriter on the city street is hard to picture!). It is interesting that you note the gender distinction – I can only think of girls also who loved this book as well. Is the book as appealing for boys? I think the statue is fascinating, as is Claudia’s quest for change and growth. She truly wants her adventure to have significant meaning – which has universal appeal in my opinion.


    March 9, 2015

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