Skip to content

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

2013 May 2

As I mentioned in Monday’s post, I’m currently re-reading From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler . It’s a childhood favorite that still holds up, many years later. Much has been written in the past week since the passing of E.L. Konigsburg, the book’s author. Simply summed up, if you read the book as a child, chances are very good that you treasure it, and if you didn’t–there’s still time.

To a kid, the book is magical. Claudia and Jamie Kincaid, in an act of rebellion from their staid lives in suburban Connecticut, plan an elaborate escape–to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. A favorite passage:

Claudia knew that she could never pull off the old-fashioned kind of running away. That is, running away in the heat of anger with a knapsack on her back. She didn’t like discomfort; even picnics were untidy and inconvenient: all those insects and the sun melting the icing on the cupcakes. Therefore, she decided that her leaving home would not just be running from somewhere but would be running to somewhere. To a large place, a comfortable place, an indoor place, and preferably a beautiful place.

They sleep in a giant antique bed and slip into school groups during the day. They pack their clothes in instrument cases and hide them in ancient funereal urns and behind ornate tapestries. They hide in bathroom stalls and under beds to escape museum guards and staff. They do laundry at laundromats and eat at automats, counting their pennies and always budgeting. They take baths in a giant fountain, where they also steal coins. In this scenario, Konigsburg manages to tap into the fantasies of almost every kid out there–to live a secret life by cover of night somewhere elegant and fascinating.

One year, in Girl Scouts, we took a bus to the Boston Museum of Science and slept there with a bunch of other Girl Scout troops. We brought sleeping bags and money to buy astronaut ice cream in the gift shop. Our group slept underneath a giant reproduction of the moon and I remember thinking how appropriate it was. We brushed our teeth in the men’s restroom because there were no men there–it was perhaps the first time I ever saw a urinal. This experience is seared into my memory unlike any other of my childhood, the rest of which is fairly fuzzy. The Museum of Science was one of my very favorite places, so full of fun exhibits and crazy things. I loved going there, and to sleep there, while no one else was around, to have the run of the museum after dark, was a special kind of magic. Konigsburg understood that feeling perfectly.

Claudia Kincaid is a fantastic character. She is smart, opinionated, and practical. She knows what she wants and how to get it. At the same time, she is generous with her little brother and becomes completely enamored by a mysterious new sculpture of unknown origin–a two-foot tall marble statue she calls Angel. It’s posited that it could be a creation of Michelangelo–Claudia and Jamie set out to find the truth.

Claudia’s style is put together, refined, and preppy. Here’s the look I picture her wearing:

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by jldurso featuring beret hats



Have you read this classic? What do you think of it?

3 Responses Post a comment
  1. Raquel permalink
    May 3, 2013

    I didn’t get to this book until an adult a couple of years ago, but it was so charming! I am certain I would have adored it as a child. Lucky you getting to sleep over at the museum! :)

  2. Kerry permalink
    May 3, 2013

    I look forward to someday reading “The First Time I Ever Saw a Urinal: Literary Memories” by JLD(G)

  3. April 6, 2014

    Love this! The Mixed Up Files was one of my favorites as a kid, too. The outfit you picked for Claudia is perfect!

Leave a Reply

Note: You may use basic HTML in your comments. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS