From The Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (1968 Newbery Medal winner)

When I was 8 years old I wanted to run away from home.

I’m sure it was partly fueled by not getting my own way or because I wasn’t getting enough attention. My dreams of adventure and excitement were extinguished when I got to the end of the driveway and got a sudden pang of homesickness (or was it hunger?) In “From The Mixed up Files…” 12 year old Claudia decides she’s not appreciated by her family so she devices her own runaway plan, except she gets a whole lot farther than the end of the driveway, she runs all the way to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Equipped with determination, smarts and her tightwad younger brother Jamie, Claudia embarks on a one-week escape to “discover” herself. The brother/sister team have a great time-they spend their days mingling in the crowds, viewing exhibits and exploring all the nooks and crannies of the museum. They hide after hours and sleep in an authentic French canopy bed. They bathe in the glorious fountain (where they help themselves to wish-seekers thrown change) and they dine on everything from cheese sandwiches to pineapple juice. While being “guests” of the museum they learn to appreciate art history and become obsessed with a recently acquired museum piece- a sculpture entitled “Angel” thought to be the work of Michelangelo. Their journey takes them to the home of Mrs. Frankweiler, an eccentric art collector and historian, and seller of the mysterious art piece.

They finally learn the truth about the piece, and a whole lot more about themselves from their time spent with Mrs. Frankweiler.

I doubt present day kids would choose to run away to an art museum, more likely the mall, or an amusement park, but still the book gives us an interesting perspective on what it might be like. Unfortunately, these characters aren’t the best role models for our children. They lie a little, mooch a little, and their motivations for running away were foolish to begin with. It would have been easier to swallow had they run away from an abusive environment, not a loving family who simply didn’t recognize their kids had some issues.

No doubt this classic has pleased the masses with its creative story, unique voice and artsy setting, but considering homeschoolers’ family-centered lives, they might have trouble (like I did) with accepting the motivations and actions of these characters.

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