Claudia feels unappreciated at home. She has to do more chores than her brothers, look after kids and finally decides she has had enough. But she doesn't do the typical run-away-from-home. She plans and saves and bides her time. She invites her brother, Jamie, to run away with her (mostly because he has more money than she does) to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Everything goes as planned and they hide out in the museum. They learn the routines of the guards, know when to wait in a bathroom stall until it is all clear, get to sleep in big antique beds. They discover bathing in the fountain and gather money people have thrown in to use for food.
They try to blend in with other school groups on tours in the museum. "They learned a lot. They didn't even mind. They were surprised that they could actually learn something when they weren't in class." (p. 54)
Their plan gets a kink thrown in when the children see a statue that the museum had recently acquired from Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Claudia falls in love with it and feels that it is her special mission to discover who actually sculpted it. The siblings visit a library and study up on Renaissance sculptors. They do everything they can to figure it out. Finally, Claudia decides they have to go visit Mrs. Frankweiler, positive that she holds the answer. The book is actually "written" by Mrs. Frankweiler, as she retells the tale the children have recounted to her. I will leave it to you to find out who the sculptor was.
I remember reading and liking this book a lot as a child. It was full of adventure and mystery. As an adult and parent I would only hope that it wouldn't give my children any grand ideas about running away, even if it is planned so well.
Some favorite quotes.
Mrs. F, to Claudia. "Everything gets over, and nothing is ever enough. Except the part you carry with you. It's the same as going on a vacation. Some people spend all their time on a vacation taking pictures so that when they get home they can show their friends evidence that they had a good time. They don't pause to let the vacation enter inside of them and take that home." (p. 139-140)
"Happiness is excitement that has found a settling down place, but there is always a little corner that keeps flapping around." (p. 151)
"Some days you must learn a great deal. But you should also have days when you allow what is already in you to swell up inside of you until it touches everything. And you can feel it inside you. If you never take time out to let that happen, then you just accumulate facts, and they begin to rattle around inside of you. You can make noise with them, but never really feel anything with them. It's hollow." (p. 153)
Konigsburg, E.L. From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc., 1967.