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Book Club Kits: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

Alamance County Public Libraries offer Book Club Kits for check out to area book clubs. Each kit contains 10 copies of a book and a reading guide.

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E.L. Konigsburg

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Book Summary

Bored with her life, twelve-year-old Claudia Kincaid is ready for a big change. In fact, she wants to run away from home. But she doesn't like discomfort. She doesn't even like picnics. So an old-fashioned, knapsack kind of running away is out of the question. Instead of running from somewhere, she decides to run to somewhere — some place comfortable, and preferably beautiful. Where else, but the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City? Fare on the train from the suburbs takes three weeks of skipping hot fudge sundaes. Taking Jamie, the second youngest of her three brothers — the quiet one with the largest cache of money — with her, Claudia's life is immediately changed in a big way. At night she and Jamie take baths in one of the museum's fountains and they sleep in royal beds in the museum's collection, despite the "Please do not step on the platform" sign.

But she and Jamie's vacation from their "real" life turns into an adventure when Angel, a sculpture rumored to have been carved by Michelangelo, arrives. Will they solve a mystery that even the experts can't solve?

Discussion Questions

  1. If you were planning to run away like Claudia, where would you go? Would you take anyone with you?
  2.  Claudia thinks she is running away because of injustice. What's your opinion about Claudia's sense of injustice?
  3. Have you ever wanted to escape or run away from something you didn't like? Do you think Claudia and Jamie were fair to their family when they ran away?
  4. How do you feel about the way Jamie wins in cards against Bruce? How do you think friends should treat one another?
  5. What section of the museum would you have chosen to study?
  6.  Claudia and Jamie talk about homesickness. Have you ever been homesick? How would you define it?
  7.  Claudia says, “When you hug someone, you learn something else about them. An important something else.” What do you think she means?
  8.  Is Mrs. Frankweiler the way you expected she would be? Why or why not?
  9.  Claudia says you should learn something new every day. Mrs. Frankweiler says that some days you should learn a lot, but on others you should let “what is already in you to swell up inside you until it touches everything.” Which idea do you agree with and why?
  10. Why isn't a secret much fun if no one knows you have it?

About the Author

Elaine Lobl Konigsburg was born on February 10, 1930, and she died on April 19, 2013. She was 83.

"I was born in New York City. But my family moved when I was still an infant. Except for a year and half when we lived in Youngstown, Ohio, I grew up in small towns in Pennsylvania. I graduated from high school in Farrell, Pennsylvania.

"When I was in college at Carnegie Mellon University, I was interested in chemistry, so I became a chemist. I worked in a laboratory, married David, a psychologist, and went to graduate school at the University of Pittsburgh. Then I taught science at a private girls' school. I had three children — Paul, Laurie, and Ross — and waited until all three were in school before I started writing.

"After I won the Newbery Medal for From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, children all over the world let me know that they liked books that take them to unusual places where they meet unusual people. That gave me the courage to write about Eleanor of Aquitaine in A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver and about Leonardo da Vinci in The Second Mrs. Giaconda. Readers let me know that they like books that have more to them than meets the eye. Had they not let me know that, I never would have written The View From Saturday.

"When I won a Newbery Medal for that book, I was filled with joy. And that's a fact. I knew that kids would love meeting one character and then two and three, and I also knew — because I had learned it from them — that they would think that fitting all the stories together was part of the adventure. I knew I had been right about the spirit of adventure shared by good readers. I owe children a good story."