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



Last updated Friday, June 24, 2011

Author: E.L. Konigsburg
Date of Publication: 1970
ISBN: 9780689205866
Grade Level: 5th    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Jul. 2011

Synopsis: Amazon.com Review Claudia is bored. She's ready for a big change, but wants to make sure she does it with style. When she decides to run away, Claudia plans to be a runaway with specific goals: to be comfortable, to be changed, and to be appreciated at home. She carefully appoints a partner (her younger brother), and selects a destination (The Metropolitan Museum of Art), but there are some adventures you simply can't plan in advance. Claudia and her brother Jamie are soon embroiled in an artistic mystery even the experts can't solve, but discovering a solution to this puzzle might just help Claudia find the answer to her personal quest.

Note to readers:
•  This book was published in 1968, so the amounts of money will seem small to us. To get a sense of how much those amounts are now, multiple each amount of money in the book by about 6.5, for example, .25 cents in the book is worth $1.62 in 2011.
•  The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, often referred to as "the Met", is one of the largest art museums in the world, and contains many thousands of famous works from around the world, including ancient Roman and Greek statues, armor and weapons, and huge libraries. In Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, a book and movie the kids may know, Percy goes to the Met on a school field trip. On pp. 48-49 is a map of the Met.
•  Words you may need to define: suburb (p. 6), injustice (p. 6), monotony (p. 6), Mah-Jong club (p. 7), "fiscal week" (p. 10), Neanderthal man (p. 13), flattery (p. 14), sneakers vs shoes (p. 15 – "shoes" in the '60s were what we would now call formal, hard-soled shoes), Central Park in New York City (p. 27), extravagant (p. 28)

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Have you ever been to a museum?
•  How about an art museum?
•  What did you like that you saw there?
•  Would you like to live in one for awhile?

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  From what she writes in her letter, what do you learn about Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler? What do you think of her letter?
•  Claudia feels she is subject to injustice, which is why she wants to run away. Do you feel she suffers injustice? Enough to run away from home?
•  What do you think of Claudia's planning?
•  Have you ever used flattery to get someone to do something? How? What happened?
•  $25 in 1968 is worth $162 in 2011. Have you ever saved up that much money? How could you save that much money?
•  Do you agree with Claudia that it is wiser to take the train to New York City?
•  What do you think of the letter Claudia mailed? Will that be enough for her parents and brothers?
•  Do you think Claudia and Jamie will run out of money? How might they solve money troubles?
•  At the point you stop reading, tell the kids that later in the book Claudia and Jamie come up with a possibly illegal solution for money, that Claudia discovers a mystery about a statue at the museum, and that Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler is a key part of the mystery.

Craft ideas:
•  Draw a work of art you imagine would be in the Met, or your own work of art you would like to see be added to the Met
•  On pp. 48-49 is a map of the Met. Design your own museum of whatever you like, with different rooms and areas of what you and your friends would like to see in a museum.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!