ABOUT THIS BOOK
When Claudia Kincaid made plans to run away, she never dreamed that she would embark on a mystery that would send her on the greatest adventure of her young life. Accompanied by her younger brother, Jamie, Claudia sets out to take up temporary residence at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. There, the children discover an angel statue believed by art critics to have been created by Michelangelo. Determined to uncover the mystery regarding the creator of "Angel," Claudia and Jamie go searching for Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, the former owner of the statue. Mrs. Frankweiler helps them discover something far more important than the mystery of the statue, and sends the children home "different on the inside."
ABOUT THIS AUTHOR
E.L. Konigsburg has never spent the night in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, like the heroine of her Newbery Medal-winning novel, From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler does. But she was born in New York, and she is a part-time painter. In fact she's done the illustrations for a number of books.
Konigsburg did not grow up in the city. Her family moved to Pennsylvania when she was young, and most of her childhood was spent in small towns in that state. When she attended Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, she majored in chemistry, and after graduation she worked as a chemist, doing research and teaching. It wasn't until after she was married and had three children in school that Konigsburg began writing books.
Claudia and Jamie Kincaid discover the Italian Renaissance room in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Invite a social studies or art teacher to speak to the class about the Italian Renaissance. How did this period change the way people looked at art? Have students go to the library to find information about Filippo Brunelleschi, Lorenzo Ghiberti, Donatello, Michelangelo, and other artists whose work might be exhibited in the Italian Renaissance room. Allow them to share their findings with the entire class.
There are many ways to show humor in a novel. Sometimes the humor is in what the characters do, other times it is in what the characters say. Name some situations in the book that you think are funny. E. L. Konigsburg uses sarcasm to add humor to the story. Find examples of sarcasm in the book. Which character is the most sarcastic?
Courage and Honor
Mrs. Frankweiler tells her lawyer, Mr. Saxonberg, that "Manhattan called for the courage of at least two Kincaids" (page 27). What is courageous about Claudia and Jamie's adventure? How does running away to a city take a different kind of courage than running away to a rural area?
Planning is one of Claudia's talents. She also is extremely resourceful. How does being resourceful help the planning process? How is Jamie resourceful? Discuss whether Claudia and Jamie could have survived their week in the museum had they not been resourceful.
Mrs. Frankweiler says that before Claudia and Jamie ran away, they only "acted like a team." Their adventure made them "feel like a team" (page 39). At what point in the story do the children become a team? Why is teamwork important to the success of their caper? Discuss Claudia and Jamie's chances of continuing to "feel like a team" once they get home.
Family and Relationships
Describe Claudia and Jamie's relationship. Why does Claudia need Jamie? Claudia is described as being "cautious" and Jamie is said to be "adventurous" (page 17). Find evidence in the novel that supports these descriptions of the children. Ask students to make a list of words that best describe themselves and another list that describes one of their siblings or a close friend. Then, ask them to write a paragraph contrasting their personality with that of their brother or sister or friend.
Claudia says that she didn't "run away to come home the same" (page 98). How does the week in the museum change Claudia? What does Mrs. Frankweiler have to do with helping Claudia go home "different on the inside"?
Claudia is constantly correcting Jamie's grammar. Ask students to spend a day listening to the way people speak. Instruct them to write down the grammar misuses that they hear. Use the students' findings as a grammar lesson by asking them to share some of their examples of incorrect grammar. Give the class the opportunity to correct each example.
Ask students to refer to the map of the Metropolitan Museum of Art on pp. 48 and 49 of the novel. Tell them that each of the rooms is called a gallery. Divide the class into small groups and ask each group to select a gallery to research. Instruct them to use reference sources to find the type of items that might be in their assigned gallery. They also might enjoy choosing one or two specific items for detailed research.
Jamie says that Claudia wanted to be Joan of Arc, Clara Barton, and Florence Nightingale. Ask students to research these women and share why Claudia might admire them.
Claudia and Jamie join a school group that is touring the Egyptian room. They are fascinated with the mummies. Find out the ancient process of mummification. Why might this be considered a science? How did the Egyptian method of embalming differ from other ancient peoples'? What embalming techniques are used today?
Ask students to consider the amount of money that the Kincaid children had at the beginning of their adventure and the amount they collected in the fountain. Then, ask them to write down all of their expenditures. Which of their expenditures are absolutely necessary for their survival? Invite students to discuss their reasoning.
Claudia had studied art appreciation in school. She decides to use her time in the museum to learn something new each day. Ask each student to select one of the artists from the Italian Renaissance that the class discovered in their research in the pre-reading activity. Instruct them to read about the artist's style, subjects, and where some of his/her art is exhibited.
Teaching Ideas prepared by Pat Scales, Library Media Specialist, Greenville Middle School, Greenville, SC.
Ask students to look at words such as inconspicuous (page 30), impostor (page 55), and stowaway ( page 24). How do these words refer specifically to the two runaways? Students also may enjoy searching the novel for new words pertaining to art such as sarcophagus (page 44).
A Newbery Medal Book
An ALA Notable Children's Book
A School and Library Journal Best Book of the Year
Lewis Carroll Shelf Award
William Allen White Kansas Award
"Fresh and crisply written with uncommonly real and likable characters."--Booklist
"An exceptional story, notable for superlative writing."--Children's Book World
x "Humor, suspense, intrigue."--Starred, School Library Journal
"One of the most original stories of many years."--The Horn Book
"Fast and fresh and funny."--Kirkus Reviews
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