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

(Atheneum, 1967;
Simon & Schuster, 1970;
Simon Pulse, 2002)

There are certain books that, whenever in life we read them, become a part of us -- never forgotten and always savored. Out of several books such as this from my childhood, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler is undoubtedly one of the best. It is a near-perfect adventure so charming that I find myself applying it to events in my own life for comparison.

Now that my children are finally old enough to appreciate some of these treasures from my past, I rushed out this Christmas to get a copy. Both Vinnie (age 11) and I were completely immersed in the story, parceling it out into half-hour reading sessions to make it last longer. Vinnie was thrilled to find he has much in common with Jamie Kincaid, the tightwad little brother. Both suffer the same dislike of household chores, routines and restrictions. Like Jamie, Vinnie would be perfectly happy to run away to a place where he would never again have to go to school, be ordered to bathe or have to spend a single dime of his secret stash of riches.

When Claudia Kincaid, oldest sister of the family, decides she is underappreciated and hatches a plot to run away from home, she chooses the perfect traveling companion in Jamie. Although Claudia is an excellent planner and has worked out the details of her escape from suburban blandness in absolute detail, she is poor. Jamie, on the other hand, has become quite wealthy due to his daily game of cards with his unlucky best friend Bruce.

The two escape from Connecticut seeking the good life and adventure in New York City. According to Claudia's plan, they shelter at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, sleeping in a luxurious antique bed by night and blending in with visiting school groups by day. All goes as expected until Claudia becomes embroiled in a mystery, and finding the clues to solve it becomes her driving passion.

Although written in the 1960s, there is nothing in the story to deter modern children from enjoying it thoroughly. The characters and events are immediately recognizable and the struggle for independence crosses all ages and genders.

Not only do I think you must read this, I would suggest buying a copy to pass down to your children, and their children.

- Rambles
written by Katie Knapp
published 21 August 2004

Buy it from Amazon.com.