A couple of Fridays ago, April 19, 2013, two time Newbery Medal winner E. L. Konigsburg died at the age of 83. From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler is a family favorite. Three generations of my family have enjoyed this book about a sister and brother who run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and solve a mystery surrounding a statue that is purported to be by Michelangelo.
In a letter to her lawyer, Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler tells the story of almost twelve year old Claudia, who has decided to run away from home because of injustice. The injustice of having to do chores when her three younger brothers don’t do any. Maybe, too, she is bored with being straight A’s Claudia and wants some adventure. Because she does not like discomfort, Claudia plans to run away TO somewhere that is comfortable and beautiful. She chooses The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Since her allowance was too small (another injustice), she needs some financial assistance, so she invites her thrifty brother, Jamie. He never spends his money.
Jamie turns out to be a good, but thrifty companion (no cab rides, just buses and as we used to say, ankle express). They arrive at the museum and find a comfortable place to bed down each night, find all the entrances and exits and learn the schedules of the night watchmen. Once settled, they decide to use the opportunity to learn and study about all the treasures in the museum. One day they go to the Italian Renaissance Gallery. There is a huge line leading to a small statue of an angel with folded arms. Claudia thinks it is the most beautiful and graceful statue she has ever seen. The next day, in a New York Times article, there is a story about the statue. It was thought to be an early work by Michelangelo. If it was, the Museum had found the greatest bargain in art history: it had purchased the statue at auction for $225 from the same Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. She had bought it before World War II from a dealer in Bologna, Italy. So the statue was not only beautiful but mysterious. How could Claudia and Jamie resist the challenge? They are determined to find out if the statue is really a Michelangelo. Do they find the answer? And who is Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler’s lawyer?