One of the great pleasure in life is finding a good book and falling in love with characters that you want to be. They are the characters that makes you green with envy over what they get to do and see. You wouldn't really trade them lives, but you would be willing to step into their shoes for the period of time the book details. It could be a romance that you would want for yourself or the adventure you would do anything to go on. It may even be the house they live in, the family that surrounds them, or their best friend that makes you want to be them. Whatever the case, it's those characters that keeps us coming back for more, over and over again.
As a kid, I would have done anything to trade places with Claudia and Jamie Kincaid. The eleven and nine yard old stars of the wonderful book, From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Koingsburg, are two kids that got to live a dream of mine. I haven't been to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, but who wouldn't want to live in any museum. I can get lost in a museum for hours, doesn't matter how big or small. I may have seen every exhibit 50 different times, but the magic I feel when I walk through the doors, never leaves me. I'm always in awe of what the human race can achieve, and I feel better about our future when I leave.
Of course the fact that they got to live in a museum because they ran away from home never seemed to bother me. Claudia is one of those kids that is probably too smart for her own good, and thinks her parents don't show her enough respect. She doesn't think they appreciate her or her intelligence so she comes up with a plan to runaway. She ropes her brother into the scheme, because unlike her, he saves his money. He has a little over $20 on him, which Claudia knows she will need. So they set out to visit the museum, and hide in the bathrooms in order to stay overnight.
This is where the book hooked me, they got to play in the fountain and used the money to buy stuff they needed. They got to sleep in an antique bed, that my brain always assumed a king slept in. But most of all, they get to wander around by themselves and see the museum in a way that the rest of us don't get to. They live with the art and antiques in a way that I'm still jealous of to this day. When the stumble upon the statue of an angel, Claudia is determined to solve the mystery surrounding it. So not only do they get to live in a museum, they get to solve a mystery, how frickin lucky is that.
The rest of the book details their search for the identity of the artist who created the statue and how it came to be in the museum. It takes them out into the real world, which they do hesitantly. They know once they leave the museum for good, they will be sent back home soon after that. The mystery and the secrets it holds are worth the risk, so they set out to find Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, the woman who donated the statue to the museum.
I'm not going to ruin the story for those of you who haven't read it, but once they arrive at her house, the fun gets started all over again. I would have done anything, at 12 years old, to dig through those files. Of course the fact that my parents missed and worried about me would have nagged at me, as it did the kids, but I'm pretty sure the mystery would have had me engulfed as well. I will say that the family is reunited at the end, and everybody lives happily, and wiser, ever after.
I couldn't find a clip of the 1995 TV version of the movie, which is the picture I used, but I did find a clip of the Ingrid Bergman movie.
My son loved that book but I don't think I ever read it. I guess it's not too late.
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